GEORGE Reynolds is to go on trial charged with the harassment of a county councillor over a planning application.

The former Darlington Football Club chairman appeared before a district judge sitting at Newton Aycliffe Magistrates’ Court yesterday to enter a ‘not guilty’ plea to the charge.

The 83-year-old has submitted an application to the authority to build ten holiday homes on land near The 68 Café at Toft Hill, near Bishop Auckland.

But officers from Durham Constabulary became involved after Mr Reynolds, of Monument Court, Neville’s Cross, Durham, allegedly visited the home of Durham County Councillor Heather Smith, who represents Evenwood.

Mr Reynolds is also accused of writing several letters to her in the days afterwards.

He is charged with committing the offence of harassment without violence between June 4 and 12 this year.

Leslie Burgess, from the Crown Prosecution Service, said: “Mr Reynolds attended her home address on June 4. He then sent letters to her knowing that she did not want correspondence.”

In court, he was represented by David Malone and a trial date has been fixed for September 3 at Teesside Magistrates’ Court.

He was granted conditional bail until then and warned he must attend the court on that date.

District Judge Tim Capstick said: “You have pleaded ‘not guilty’ as is your right. There will be a trial at Teesside Magistrates’ Court.

“You yourself will not be able to cross examine. That is the procedure. That will be done by Mr Malone or one of his colleagues. I have no reason to think that you will not attend but if you do not you can be arrested and punished.

“If you are not there the prosecution can ask to go ahead in your absence.”

Mr Reynolds was warned he must not contact any witnesses in the case, either in person, or by telephone, text message, email, social media or through a third party.

The judge said: “You are not allowed to send any kind of message or to speak to them.

“I have no reason to think that you would contact them but I am obliged to warn you.”

The application was submitted in February but a decision has yet to be made about whether it will be granted approval.

On June 26, the council’s planning officer wrote to Mr Reynolds’ planning agent to advise there were serious issues associated with the proposed development.

He said: “It is considered that amendments to the scheme would not overcome the harm caused by the proposal and I would strongly suggest that the scheme is not pursued further and the application by withdrawn.”