ENVIRONMENTALISTS have voiced dismay after the developers behind a £100m “eco village” scheme revealed plans to change its key green features.

Lingfield Point No 1 Ltd, which is the third firm to take charge of the transformation of the 32-hectare former Paton and Baldwins wool factory site in Darlington, said promises to create a site wide energy centre and a wind turbine, and targets for CO2 emissions reductions made when the proposal was approved in 2009 were “now considered to be unrealistic”.

Eleven years ago business leaders said the development, to include 1,200 homes, artistic features, a care home and school, offices, shops and sports facilities, would help bring the whole region into the international spotlight due to its use of cutting edge environmental technology, including a network of pipes underneath the site. The scheme was heralded as the only one of its type in the country.

At the time, Darlington Borough Council’s leader Councillor John Williams described the 15-year plan for the site as “a landmark scheme such as this one clearly demonstrates the confidence that developers have in Darlington and its future”.

Lingfield Point No 1 Ltd has now lodged documents with the council asking for consent to replace green elements of the plan, such as an ambition to make the development both water and carbon neutral with “an objective to achieve high levels of sustainability and energy efficiency”.

The application documents state: “The amendments are made to reflect arrangements on site which will contribute to the successful delivery of development within the permission’s timescale.”

The proposed changes has prompted questions over the value of long-term plans for areas, particularly when developers with a different ethos take over.

Councillor Matthew Snedker, leader of the authority’s Green Party group, said: “This will make people very angry. I am incredibly upset for Darlington that these changes have been proposed. The idea that the town secured this was a real feather in our cap, and now it is being snatched away. It goes to highlight all that’s rotten in the master planning process in the country.

"Planners were promised the world by developers to get their foot in the door, and once given planning permission they are untouchable. What we’re left with is a democratic system being run roughshod over and this kind of thing happening all too often.”