A HOSTILE reception met planning consultants who attended a packed meeting to discuss proposals for a new housing development in Middleton St George.
Around 30 villagers attended the Parish Council meeting at the Parish Rooms to hear planning consultant Steve Hesmondhalgh and architect Philip Rickinson outline a vision to build a possible 100 houses near the village’s Water Park.
The homes would be a mixture of two, three and four bedroomed properties with an affordable element subject to negotiations with Darlington Borough Council.
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Mr Hesmondhalgh stressed that their attendance at the meeting was not a pre-cursor to a planning application being submitted the next day, but said he wanted to find out people’s views and feed them back to the landowner.
He said: “I know that there is considerable opposition to what various people (developers) have put forward for the village and I am sure that there will be to what we put forward.”
Ward councillor and parish council chair Doris Jones pointed to a map showing over a dozen sites in Middleton St George already earmarked for potential development and said: “We are looking at all of these.
“Somebody is spending a lot of money on your services putting all this together; it can’t have been cheap so there must be some genuine consideration somewhere along the line of putting an application in.”
Residents were given the chance to ask questions of Mr Rickinson and Mr Hesmondhalgh and outline their concerns about the development.
The main points raised included the inevitable increase in the volume of traffic in the village, potential flooding due to insufficient drainage and the fact that there were already not enough local amenities for the current population.
One resident received a ripple of applause as she described the proposals as “absolute lunacy” whilst another simply told the pair: “You are not wanted.”
Cllr Jones said that she could not approve any more development in Middleton St George unless it was for facilities that would directly benefit its residents.
She pointed out that even Darlington Council accepted that the village was full, which is why it was not included as an area for development in the authority’s guideline document for future housing provision across the borough.
Mr Rickinson acknowledged the strength of feeling among residents opposed to further development in the village, but pointed to the government’s drive to build more houses nationally.
He said: “I am surprised that nobody wants anymore houses here, which is a bit of a shame, but it is your village.”
Mr Rickinson also thanked the villagers for their time, adding: “We have heard you.”
After Mr Hesmondhalgh and Mr Rickinson had left the meeting, Cllr Jones told the assembled villagers: “I am really proud of the way you stood up to them tonight and we need more of that.”
She also stressed that the Parish Council was committed to developing its Neighbourhood Development Plan which she described as being vital to help protect the village against unwanted future developments.