RESIDENTS of a Darlington estate who oppose plans to build up to 66 new homes on a piece of green land have pleaded with councillors to listen to their concerns.

Penny Brunskill, secretary of Skerne Park Residents’ Association, spoke at a meeting of Darlington Borough Council’s cabinet to ask members to reconsider plans to build social housing on land off Hammond Drive.

Mrs Brunskill said residents valued the greenfield site and feared the effects of a large number of new flats but added that many people felt the situation was a ‘done deal’ and that the council would not listen to their concerns.

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The issue of a covenant on the land, believed to prevent it being used for housing, was raised but Ian Williams, the council’s assistant director for economic development, said a “solution had been found”, which was progressing.

Cabinet members said they understood the concerns about the £8.4m housing project, but that the town needed more affordable housing, particularly smaller two bedroom units.

The cabinet agreed to spend £7.2m from its housing capital account to get the scheme underway along with a £1.2m grant from the government’s Homes and Communities Agency.

When asked about the risk of flooding, increased traffic and the impact on the local landscape, cabinet members said those issues would be dealt with during the planning process.

Mrs Brunskill told councillors: “There is still a lot of opposition to this. This is the only bit of green space we have left on the estate.

“There is definitely a covenant on the land. If there’s a covenant, why do the council want to get around that and build there?

“Once you’ve built on this land there’s no going back – it’s gone forever.”

Councillor Paul Harman, ward member for Park East, gave his backing to residents and called for further consultation.

He added: “That consultation cannot present a fait accompli – we need to discuss with residents what they want to see and what is right for the estate.”

Veronica Copeland, cabinet member for housing, said: “I will make sure the head of housing is aware of these concerns. There is a need for affordable rented properties in this area.

“We get the point about further consultation, we don’t want anyone to feel we are just dumping these properties on them – their views are being taken seriously.”