A ENVIRONMENTAL campaign group is protesting proposed developments which they believe could destroy local wildlife.

Darlington Friends of the Earth have called on council and developers to rethink the controversial plans to build up to 4,500 new homes dubbed the 'garden village' in Skerningham, on the northern outskirts of Darlington, along with a new link road, several feeder roads and potential new roads, parts of which will be built over farmland or rural locations. These developments are part of the council's Local Plan which members of the cabinet will meet on Tuesday, February 11 to vote whether to agree it.

The organisation said that they are fearful for the future of Darlington's natural habitat, including the town's abundance of birds such as: Yellowhammer, Ring ouzel, Skylark, Fieldfare, Redwing, Song thrush and Starling.

Activist against the developments and supporter of Darlington Friends of the Earth, David Clark, of Skerningham, described garden villages as "no more than disguised housing estates"and said they were "poisoning the country" by destroying wildlife habitats, increasing traffic and pollution, eradicating ancient rights of ways, and putting a strain on local resources including schools and doctors surgeries.

"The solution is to invest, build and convert within already existing urban areas, and not look at destroying our countryside because these houses are worth to developers," said David.

Responding to Darlington Friends of the Earth Councillor Alan Marshall, Darlington Borough Council’s Cabinet member for Economy and Regeneration, said: “The Local Plan has a sustainable approach to achieving the amount of land available for development; and having a plan enables the Council to ensure development happens in the most appropriate way.

“We want Darlington to be a place where people want to live and where businesses want to relocate. We want to create good jobs for the public of Darlington so everyone can achieve their potential, we also want to build good homes so everyone has the opportunity to live in a good home. Whilst I value the views of the Friends of the Earth and the Plan takes many of their ideas into account, we cannot simply have no new roads, new homes or new businesses in Darlington. If we were to take that stance, the Borough would not move forward."