CONTROVERSIAL plans to build 24 houses on a popular conservation area have been dropped - but council chiefs still plan to develop the land.

Darlington Borough Council has abandoned plans for 24 homes at Eggleston View, close to the Cocker Beck conservation area.

The proposals were dropped following a period of public consultation that attracted strong opposition from local residents and community groups.

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The Friends of Cocker Beck group scrutinised the plans closely and criticised the council, saying bosses contradicted their own strategies in a bid to build on the much-loved conservation area, which was previously deemed unsuitable for development.

The group claimed the development would infringe on the area, spoil valuable green space, threaten wildlife and present a flood risk.

Council chiefs have given up on plans for 24 homes, but are working on a revised planning appliction, containing fewer homes.

Friends of Cocker Beck spokeswoman Jan Needham said: “If they tried to build on it again in the future, our argument would be the same, we don’t want any building at all down there.”

John Anderson, the council's assistant director for economic initiatives, said: "Due to concerns expressed through the consultation process, we have withdrawn the application on the basis that it wasn’t suitable for the site.

"We’re now looking at a different way to develop the land and based on feedback from residents, any future proposals will be on a smaller scale."

The proposals had formed part of the council’s Making and Growing Places masterplan, which aims to establish thousands of new homes in the town by 2026.