A PROPOSAL to address a lack of Gypsy and Traveller accommodation by further developing an area for that community could harm the habitat of the protected great crested newt, it has been claimed.

Plans to change the use of land off Neasham Road, near Hurworth Moor, Darlington, to create a site for Gypsies, including areas for five mobile homes, five touring pitches and five amenity buildings have been submitted to Darlington Borough Council.

The application has been lodged just weeks after a proposal by a cousin of Gypsy community leader Shera Rom Billy Welch to create another site for Gypsy families on farm fields off Neasham Road, an area where there are already four such sites.

It comes seven years after the authority announced plans to use a £1.8m grant from the Homes and Communities Agency to create an extra 20 pitches at its Neasham Road Gypsy site to meet the demand for Gypsy accommodation.

The Gypsy community has said the latest schemes had been triggered by the authority admitting it could not demonstrate a sufficient supply of deliverable sites to meet its target for them.

Papers submitted with the scheme for five mobile homes state only three new Gypsy-Traveller pitches have been approved in the borough since 2017, resulting in a shortfall of 17 when considered alongside the council’s emerging Local Plan.

The documents state given that there are already nearby Gypsy sites, the plan would be in keeping with the area. They added the proposed use of the site is entirely single storey and planting would screen the site.

However, the scheme has attracted objections from local residents, including the piecemeal development of Hurworth Moor.

In a letter to the council one objector stated: “I note that the intention is to clean the area of fly-tipping, but at what visual cost? Then there’s the issue of the habitat of the great crested newt - one was seen at Skipbridge Garage only two weeks ago.”