CAMPAIGNERS battling against a council’s controversial development blueprint have voiced their anger after an investigation into senior councillors’ voting for the scheme found no evidence of misconduct and the process had been legally sound.

Darlington Borough Council’s assistant director of law and governance Luke Swinhoe said the authority’s leader Councillor Heather Scott and economy portfolio holder Councillor Alan Marshall did nothing wrong in preparing what has been dubbed a “victory video” in advance of a debate and decision on the borough’s Local Plan.

He said the video, which featured both councillors stating they were pleased the Local Plan had been agreed, in no way demonstrated the councillors had predetermined the decision by entering the meeting with a closed mind, as campaigners had alleged.

“While members should not approach decision making with a closed mind, a completely neutral state of mind is not required”, he said, adding “Having a predisposition is permissible, and in the context of members of political parties and groups is to some extent expected.”

Mr Swinhoe found it would have been impractical to make videos after the meeting, which finished at 10pm, and making videos and statements in advance was “a normal part of media planning”.

He said: “Attending a council meeting with a view that you are wanting to achieve would be expected of the leader of council or a member of cabinet who is presenting cabinet recommendations to council.”

Both councillors have rejected claims they had pre-determined the decision, and have stressed they had been very uncertain of the meeting’s outcome.

Campaigners behind the complaints, who have declined to be named, said as there is no appeal route within the council over Mr Swinhoe’s decision, they were considering complaining to the Local Government Ombudsman.

The campaigners said they felt the investigation had “blatantly ignored” evidence. One campaigner said: “We are very unhappy with the way we have been dismissed out of hand.”