PLANS for an equine centre have faced criticism over environmental concerns.

Champion pony breeders David and Alison Eccles have put forward a proposal to build holiday accommodation and a timber cabin to host pony training events at Lartington, in Teesdale.

The pair hope if approved, the site will allow them to pass on traditions from a bygone era and educate the next generation on Dales Ponies.

In the planning committee report it states: “The site comprises of two fields of open pasture grassland, located in the open countryside to the south of Lartington Lane, between Barnard Castle and Lartington. The site lies within an Area of High Landscape Value (AHLV) and is within the wider parkland area that forms the setting of the Lartington Hall Park, a registered Park and Garden of Historic Interest. Abutting the southern boundary of the site is Ray Gill Wood, an Ancient and Semi-Natural Woodland (ASNW) and part of the larger Deepdale Wood Local Wildlife Site (LWS).

“It is intended that the proposals would serve as a visitor attraction with accommodation and facilities for hosting training events, demonstrations and stud visits to promote the Dales Pony in its native origins.”

However, in a committee meeting last week planning officer Stephen Pilkington said the site was unsuitable is it is too close to an ancient woodland.

Lartington Parish Council has also objected to the plans.

One comment published on the planning website read: “I do not object to the development per se, but as proposed the southern building is entirely within the 15 meter “buffer zone” of the ancient semi-natural woodland to the south, that is,

Ray Gill Wood, part of the Deepdale Wood Local Wildlife Site. The buffer zone requirement is set out in the Government guidance “Ancient woodland, ancient trees and veteran trees: protecting them from development."

Another comment read: "I have grave concerns re the increase in traffic to access the potential accommodation and pony centre. From experience and regular observation this part of the road is used as an overtaking point by cars at high speed."

During the committee meeting the decision was deferred until more information is known about the impact the development will have on the ancient woodland.