A COUNCIL which rejected a housing development on farmland near a village conservation area has been warned it could face its decision being scrutinised by government planning inspectors.

Experienced Tees Valley developer Ronnie Baird told Darlington Borough Council's planning committee he would consider challenging their decision to rule out his proposed development at Sadberge as the authority was not seeing sufficient numbers of houses built.

The meeting had seen councillors follow an officers' recommendation to refuse the scheme for 25 homes as it was outside development limits and had been viewed as harmful to the character and significance of the Sadberge Conservation Area.

Officers said the proposed design and layout did not reflect or enhance the natural, built and historic characteristics that positively contribute to the character of the local area and its sense of place.

The authority's planning development manager David Coates added as Darlington had a five-year supply of housing it was in a "fairly luxurious position" where it could look very carefully at inappropriate or unsustainable developments.

"It does give us a significant cushion to wait for the Local Plan to come along, to start looking at allocations for the most appropriate sites.

"The council went through a process of housing delivery. Many villages have been affected by that drive to deliver a five-year supply of housing. Having done the hard yards we are in quite a privileged position as an authority to pause and not consider sites that are contrary to policy. This site is now contrary to policy having a five-year housing supply."

But Mr Baird claimed the council was making a mistake by justifying its decision by its five-year land supply and the government agenda had moved "to looking at whether councils have actually delivered houses over the last few years". He said appeals over housing estates had been lost by the likes of Harrogate Borough Council recently, which had a five-year land supply but had not seen sufficient numbers of housing built.

Mr Baird said: "That is something we will be looking at if we get a refusal I'm afraid."

He said he believed the site was "a sensible extension to the village" and the development would bring many benefits, such as housing for young families and older couples, increasing the village's sustainability by securing the short-term future of the number 20 bus service, and increasing the viability of local schools and amenities.

Mr Baird said the development was well separated from the village conservation area and would enhance the village's appearance.

He said: "Over the years I have tried to build houses that purchasers can be proud of, rather than just focusing purely on profit like some companies do. Sadberge is a very attractive village and this quality development will keep it thriving and a desirable place for people to live."

Councillor D