A CONTROVERSIAL proposal to launch a dog kennel business close to a village has been backed by planning chiefs, despite concerns that incessant barking noise will hit residents’ quality of life.

Darlington Borough Council officers said while the authority had a duty to ensure new developments do “not harm the general amenity and health and safety of the local community”, the scheme to transform a garage into commercial kennels for up to eight dogs at a former farm near Walworth, near Darlington, should be passed.

The recommendation to the council’s planning committee comes just two months after councillors rejected an identical plan at the site on the grounds it would “generate unacceptable noise levels and would have an adverse impact on the amenities of the occupiers of the existing neighbouring residential properties”.

A spokesman for Jessica Emmerson, who plans to offer dog day care from 7.30am to 7.30pm, Monday to Saturday, said the scheme had been rejected due to “assumptions” over potential noise.

He said a noise impact assessment had revealed traffic noise in the area would be five decibels louder than from dogs, even if they they were encouraged to bark.

However, residents and Walworth Parish Meeting said the noise tests had been flawed, that barking dogs would ruin “a quite country hamlet” and the kennels would be too close to homes in which “people have paid good money to live”.

Objecting to the plan, one neighbour said dog barking could be “incessant” and noise levels varied dramatically across breeds, whereas traffic noise was short-lived.

Residents said the noise assessment was carried out when there was no measurable wind, but wind was the biggest carrier of noise.

In a letter of objection to the council, a Walworth Castle Hotel spokeswoman said: “The effect of  the development will tarnish the character of the neighbourhood and have an adverse effect on the development of the neighbourhood.”

In a report to the planning committee, officers said dog barking at whatever volume, duration or intensity had the potential to cause complaint, and that a dog barking loudly for five minutes every hour was just as likely to lead to complaints as muffled dog whining for a longer period of time.

The report added: “The Environmental Health Manager having considered the assessment and other representations considers that he would be unable to lodge any form of objection to the proposal....”