CLAIMS that councillors failed to ratify controversial changes to a cemetery have been dismissed as “ridiculous”.

Darlington Borough Council’s planning committee chairman Councillor Doris Jones said a minority of people attending a meeting earlier this week over plans to upgrade West Cemetery had issued complaints over the handling of the decision-making process for political purposes.

Liberal Democrat councillor Nigel Boddy said the vote, which had been surrounded by amendments, had been “so irregular” he did not believe a vote had been taken.

He said officers had advised Cllr Jones there should be a vote on the substantive motion, but Cllr Jones “decided to disregard that advice”.

Cllr Boddy said under such circumstances the council’s planning application would be open to challenge in the courts.

Liberal Democrat activist Vicky Atkinson, who had campaigned against the plans, said: “I’m shocked that the committee meeting on this subject turned into a shambles, an opinion echoed amongst many who attended. The committee announced the plans had been passed, however I challenge you to find me anytime who confirms that a vote actually took place.”

However, Cllr Jones said the complaints were “ridiculous” as officers had also understood a vote had been taken to grant the proposal, subject to amendments proposed by councillors. She said she had been shocked to hear the amount of flooding that residents near West Cemetery had endured due to the council not cleaning gullies and that the committee had been keen to respond to their other concerns about the cemetery plans.

She said many of the residents attending the meeting had been “absolutely delighted” by its outcome and council staff had immediately set to work to tackle the issues.

Cllr Jones said as the cremators needed replacing urgently she had been determined to find solutions to residents’ objections and avoid a decision on the matter being postponed. She said: “I for one could not sit back and think the residents of Darlington might not be able to take their loved ones there. It was an emergency case as far as I was concerned.”