OPPOSITION to a planned housing estate on the edge of an historic village has grown after developers submitted proposals to change the scheme which had already received planning permission.

Darlington Borough Council’s planning committee heard residents were furious that planning officers had ruled Robertson Homes’ changes to an approved scheme for a 3.3-hectare site off Gate Lane in Low Coniscliffe only represented “minor amendments”.

The meeting was told the revised proposal for 37 homes included:

● Changes to the design of the house types and parking arrangements and removal of detached garages and the use of integral garages;

● Revisions to plot positions and the orientation of properties and a new area of open space in the north west corner of the site;

● Removal of separate vehicular and pedestrian accesses off Gate Lane to the affordable units and less potential landscaping in the site.

Members were told more than 100 objectors, including Low Coniscliffe and Merrybent Parish Council, had challenged that the decision that the application should be treated as a revised application, meaning the developers faced significantly less hurdles to overcome to get the plans passed.

The meeting heard the Campaign for the Protection for Rural England believed the changes would affect the area significantly more than the original application, while others claimed the revised scheme would damage to the historic character of the village, panoramic views and harm the Teesdale Way.

Councillors were told Margaret Ellerton, chair of  the parish council, believed the proposed development would “lead to the destruction of a singularly attractive entrance to the village. She said allowing it to be treated as a revised scheme”would set a dangerous precedent for further abuse of the minor amendment option”.

In applying for the changes, a spokesman for the developers had said the density of the development was suitable for the “edge of town location” and created an “attractive link into the Low Coniscliffe village”. He added: “Due to the lack of a distinctive character of Low Coniscliffe and the proposed scheme being accessed off Gate Lane via its own entrance point, we feel creating a unique character to enhance upon the existing locality.”

Planning development manager David Coates told members: “If the number of houses had changed, if the layout had significantly changed, if it was a different beast we would be looking at a brand new application.”

After concerns were raised over whether the correct certification had been submitted with the plans, councillors deferred a decision over the revisions to the scheme.