THE first phase of a government-backed development which is set to see 2,000 homes and 200,000 square metres of employment space built over an expanse of green fields will be put under the microscope by a wide range of experts and statutory bodies, it has been agreed.

Darlington Borough Council planning bosses said assessments ranging from transport and air quality to heritage and ecology would need to be completed before proposals by developer Hellens Group for an initial 700 homes, green spaces, shops, community facilities, school, offices and retirement accommodation at Burtree Garden Village in Faverdale could progress.

The process involving numerous public bodies, known as a scoping opinion, follows Homes England announcing last month that it had bought 81 hectares of land to kick-start the scheme and comes a year after it was awarded Garden Village status by The Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government.

While the developer has claimed the Garden Village status will help bring important economic, environmental and social benefits to the area, concerns have been raised over how the garden village close to the A1(M) will impact on the town’s infrastructure and whether the new homes will meet housing and buyer’s needs.

In comments on the scoping opinion, Highways England called for road safety analysis and said it expected motorway junction 58 to be included within assessments about the impact of the development, alongside any location where there will be an increase of 30 two-way trips during rush hours. Flooding experts have called for a surface water management masterplan for the entire 178-hectare site, while the Environment Agency has stated a wider water quality assessment should include risk to ground water, to fully understand ground conditions.

Other concerns raised over the development include road traffic noise from the A1, A68 and construction noise, as well as biodiversity and ecology “given the potential impacts on European Protected Species and the scale of the potential impacts on ecological connectivity and biodiversity, in general”.

Darlington Borough Council’s Labour opposition leader Councillor Stephen Harker, whose previous administration helped develop the scheme, said he welcomed the range of scrutiny for the proposed development. He said: “It is very important that people and statutory bodies get the opportunity to comment on it. Changes are often made because of people’s comments.”