PLANS to create a small holiday caravan park near a Darlington village have now escalated into a 140-home retirement lodge park – and locals say they have not been consulted properly.

An initial planning application for land behind the Dog Inn, on the A68 near Heighington and Walworth, was approved in 2016.

Developers – who are not connected to the landlords of the Dog Inn – then asked for the scheme to be extended in 2017, and planning officers at Darlington Borough Council approved that under their delegated powers, meaning it did not go to a planning meeting.

Now a certificate of lawfulness for a retirement lodge site has been approved, much to the shock of residents living close by. Plans mention 138 lodges on site.

The Northern Echo contacted the Dog Inn and was told the plans had nothing to do with the pub, but was being developed by a company which had bought the land.

Richard Routledge, who farms on the neighbouring property, said: "There was initially permission for touring caravans on the top field, which we didn't mind, and now we have found out there are over 100 residential caravans going on site over two fields.

"Darlington Borough Council has just accepted it and we have not had a say in it.

"There is a pond on the site and there are some newts in there and there hasn't been an environmental assessment done.

"They are going to put a new entrance next to my farm entrance and it is a terrible corner. They haven't told us any plans for where the sewage or run off will go and it is right next to my field."

A spokeswoman for Darlington Borough Council said: "The first planning application for the creation of a caravan site was submitted in May 2016, followed by a second in October 2017 to extend the site, both of which were the subject of a full consultation.

“An application was then made for a Certificate of Lawfulness, to confirm what permissions had been granted. As this was merely an assessment of facts, it was dealt with by officers and confirmed occupation was for the over 50s. Overall pitch numbers would need to be established by a separate site licence.”

Darlington Borough Councillor for Heighington Gerald Lee said he had a meeting with planning officers next week to discuss the matter: "I have asked them to send me all the plans so I can look into how this has happened."