COUNCIL chiefs have apologised after residents who opposed plans for 90 homes on farmland on the outskirts of Darlington criticised the consultation process.
A 29-acre site at Muscar House Farm, off Barmpton Lane, on the eastern fringe of the town, is included in Darlington Borough Council's draft Making and Growing Places (MGP) document.
MGP sets out dozens of proposals for possible future housing sites across the borough up to 2026.
The latest round of consultations ended earlier this month and residents near Muscar House Farm were unhappy with the way it was carried out.
Dozens of residents opposed to the Muscar House Farm site being earmarked for development have displayed 'No' placards in their properties.
Judith Murray, one of the residents leading opposition to the plan, said dozens of members of the 'No' campaign attended a consultation earlier this month.
She said the event was 'very poor', with residents attending having familiarised themselves with what was initially being proposed, only for alternative plans to be put before them at the meeting.
The council has apologised for the confusion, but said both options were put forward at the consultation event and officers would have been able to explain the differences to those present.
A council spokeswoman stressed nothing is set in stone yet, with MGP not set to be formally adopted until next year.
That is unlikely to appease residents living near Muscar House Farm, with the proposed housing site just 700 metres from the Grade II-listed water mill at nearby Batts Farm.
Mrs Murray said: "We started up a poster campaign and a Facebook group, and came up with standard letters of objection people could send to the town hall if they wanted.
"Obviously, they were free to use their own words, but we felt people would be more likely to get involved if there was a template available for them."
Other concerns raised by the objectors include:
- The fact the proposals affect a greenfield site, rather than land previously used for development;
- Potential flooding risk;
- Lack of access to amenities - 80 per cent of the site is more than 300 metres from the nearest bus stop;
- Possible harm to wildlife in the area, such as birds, water voles, bats and deer.
A council spokeswoman said: "While we appreciate [the consultation] may have caused confusion and apologise for any caused, the sole intention in presenting this new option was to give residents more up-to-date information and a fuller picture of what the potential development could be.
“We welcome the level of interest from residents so far and our officers are working through more than 750 responses on sites proposed across the borough.
"These will be analysed over the coming months and recommendations put forward in a report to the place scrutiny committee in October.
“Cabinet will decide in December which sites will be included, before it is considered by an independent Government inspector next summer."