COUNCIL leaders have spoken of their confidence that plans to build 10,000 homes by 2036 will be approved by government inspectors despite claims the authority’s proposals are riddled with errors and will lead to developers having a free reign over housing.

Councillor Alan Marshall, Darlington Borough Council’s economy and regeneration portfolio holder said residents could be assured that the borough would not see a greater number of houses created than would be needed as developers would respond to market demand.

Cllr Marshall was responding to concerns raised by the Green Party and residents that proposals in the council’s draft Local Plan, such as one to build 4,500 homes at Skerningham, would be surplus to requirements in the borough.

Ahead of the draft Local Plan being reconsidered by the council in December, members of Barmpton and Skerningham Preservation Group have claimed the authority has already approved planning applications which would provide sufficient homes for the borough for more than 35 years.

The group also believes the council has a duty to consider the effect building homes on the town’s green surrounding area, particularly following declaring a climate emergency in July.

Group member David Clark said while government figures state the town only needs 177 new homes a year built over the 20-year Local Plan period - or 3,540 homes - the council has a surplus of more than 2,600 in the pipeline. Instead, the council is planning on 492 new homes a year in the borough.

He said: “Is it to do with the council being completely skint, so it’s embarking on council tax farming on a massive scale with over three times the number of homes the Government says the town may require?”

Darlington Green Party says it has identified seven areas of concern with the authority’s projected housing need, such as “selective use of data to indicate a misleading trend” and “the use of unfounded estimates”.

Green councillor Matthew Snedker said: “Our concern is that huge land allocations will be made to developers, who will then pick and chose when to build, where to build and what to build, all in there self interest.

“Rather than the council keeping a close control on house building, so that we build what we need, where we need it and when it is needed. We are keen that the draft plan is amended to take into account these errors before it goes to the planning inspector.”

Cllr Marshall said while he was expecting some environmental amendments to the draft Local Plan following the council declaring a climate emergency, but did not foresee many changes to the blueprint proposed by the previous administration.

He dismissed suggestions that plans to allow for 10,000 new homes would strengthen the position of developers. Cllr Marshall said: “The whole idea of the Local Plan is to give the council local control, so we can decide where and when developers will be able to build. Our experts at the town hall have conducted intense research to come up with the figure of how many houses will be needed. The statistical analysis has been superb. I am absolutely confident that the number of houses will be accepted by the Planning Inspectorate.”