NUMEROUS proposals to build homes and other properties in Darlington could be put on hold for many months, a meeting has heard.

Darlington Borough Council’s planning development manager confirmed the authority had decided not to consider three major housing applications – two at Coniscliffe Park and one at Middleton St George – for 1,780 homes.

David Coates told the authority’s planning committee the council had temporarily withdrawn from deciding upon the schemes as its Local Plan, which sets out local planning policies and identifies how land is used, was an unknown length of time off being completed.

He warned it was possible the developers could respond to the council’s decision by launching appeals to the Planning Inspectorate, meaning the local planning process would not have influenced decisions on the schemes.

Mr Coates said he had received legal advice that details in the Local Plan, such as increased housing figures, “need to be in a safer position”, in that they have been passed by the council and later been examined at a public inquiry.

Councillor Nick Wallis told the committee: “Clearly if we followed through this advice it will have implications for many other applications as well.”

A range of concerns over the scale and pace of housing developments have been raised ahead of the meeting to consider a wave of plans to build the estates on agricultural fields surrounding Darlington.

Schemes to build 985 homes south of Staindrop Road, 535 homes north of Coniscliffe Road and 260 homes south of Station Road, Middleton St George had all been recommended for approval by Darlington Borough Council officers.

While it had previously been indicated that 8,440 new homes would need to be built in the borough from 2016 to 2036 – an average of 422 homes a year – more than four year’s supply which would cover 90 hectares of farm fields had been scheduled to be considered at just one meeting of the authority’s planning committee earlier this week.

Mr Coates said he had told the applicants should they want to receive a sound permission it would be beneficial to do that when the Local Plan was in a more definitive position.

The meeting was told the council was relying on emerging Local Plan and that a five-year housing supply had been established in the borough as a defence should developers present unwelcome applications over the next nine months.

Mr Coates added: “Whilst the existing Local Plan doesn’t not generate a five-year supply, there are applications outside of that plan which are in place and ready to go, which do.

“So we are very much reliant on the new Local Plan going forward, whenever that happens.

“The defence mechanism in the interim period is that we do have a five-year housing supply. That is a very cogent argument that can be put to anybody challenging this.”