AN investor who spent £75,000 on plans to develop a sporting village has hit out at the council that rejected the proposals only to become a key player in similar plans three years later.

Darlington Borough Council stressed the differences between the two plans after Dubai-based entrepreneur Richard Upshall expressed frustration over the authority’s role in proposals to create a £20m sports and leisure complex.

In 2015, Mr Upshall and a team including the current Tees Valley mayor, Ben Houchen, worked with council officers for several months as they negotiated plans to build a sporting village at Blackwell Meadows.

The plans were rejected, with council leader Bill Dixon saying that they were “too good to be true” and could harm the town centre.

However, the council is now backing proposals to establish a similar sports village at The Northern Echo Arena.

The authority has pledged £50,000 to develop the plans, which will be added to almost £450,000 that has been pledged by the Tees Valley Combined Authority.

The funds are expected to be spent on detailed feasibility plans for a development that could create hundreds of jobs and will see the council work with Darlington Mowden Park RFC to create a leisure complex, sporting centre of excellence, retail area and village green.

In comparison, proposals worked on by Mr Upshall’s team involved buying land adjacent to Blackwell Meadows, reinvigorating rugby club facilities and building a stadium to accommodate Darlington FC.

It would also have featured health and leisure related ventures, with on-site businesses invited to pay a footfall levy designed to generate income for the community.

The plans were scrapped before they could be formally submitted following a row with council planners who highlighted limitations around planning permission, scale and impact on the area.

In November 2015, Cllr Dixon said that the authority did not have the resources to help developers make “speculative” plans viable, saying that the plans from RU Sports Active lacked substance and that its team had been treated fairly.

The authority also offered to work with the company at another location, an offer rejected because no other site was felt to be appropriate for the large-scale project.

Then, Mr Upshall called the unexpected dismissal of the proposals a “slap in the face” as he said the ambitious scheme would have been of great benefit to the area.

He added: “I’m trying hard to promote the area and bring in investment and it’s like I’ve been slapped in the face.

“It was a scheme that benefited everyone, a good opportunity and a sound investment.”

This week, he reiterated the sentiments as he expressed his frustration over the council playing a key part in the new plans.

He said: “I was sure that we’d see our idea pushed through by someone else with better connections and here we are.”

A Darlington Borough Council spokesman said: “The sports village proposals are different from those put forward by Mr Upshall in 2015, not least because they concern two different sites.

“For the record, Mr Upshall’s proposals were never formally submitted to the council. Any suggestion of impropriety is wholly without foundation.”