CONCERNS have been raised over children’s access to play facilities as proposals for two housing developments were passed in a village where there are approved plans and ones in the pipeline to build almost 2,000 homes.

Darlington Borough Council’s planning committee approved schemes to build 61 three and four-bedroom homes in a 2.5-hectare field off Yarm Road, on the outskirts of Middleton St George, despite hearing they were not the type of properties needed in the area.

Members also approved plans to build 12 affordable bungalows and a convenience store on nearby land, opposite Acorn Close.

While councillors said the village needed more smaller and affordable homes, speaking for the developers of the former scheme, Jon Saddington said there would a strong demand for the three and four-bedroom homes.

He said: “Volume housebuilding has its place and can deliver very successful schemes, but in this instance we are looking to do something bespoke, something interesting, something that will attract a slightly different market. 

“The proposed development, which is not contentious with the local community, will help to boost housing supply within the borough and will benefit the village by delivering much-needed affordable housing alongside substantial contributions – in excess of £240,000 – towards education and sustainable transport.”

After members highlighted how there were A-roads and the Darlington to Saltburn railway line close to the site, Councillor Joe Kelley questioned whether the number of homes should be reduced to create outside space for youngsters. He said: “That amount of family homes, each of them with three kids, that’s 200 kids, where do the children play?”

Mr Saddington replied that a “pocket park” was being provided. He added: “What you tend to find now is if you provide dedicated play equipment it can often be vandalised, it can be an attraction for teenagers who have nowhere else to hang around on an evening.

“If you provide an open space children can go on there, throw a Frisbee, play football and enjoy the open space. Kids don’t need to be focussed on using that purple wobbly donkey, children can play with all sorts of things. It’s like at Christmas, my kids play with the packaging more than they do the toys.”

Cllr Kelley responded: “From what I am seeing of that site it is basically a tree-grown grass area next to the railway line, so it will be quite dark. That’s the only area where children can congregate. How do they get out of that area when they become teenagers?”

Mr Saddington said: “That becomes a wider issue for the village. A new development of 60 homes is not going to provide a play area that’s suitable for teenagers because that would take up a third of the application site. We can only offer what is provided for in the council’s policies. You can’t now legally offer over and above contributions that are set in stone because it is seen as buying planning consent.”