RESIDENTS of a market town which has recently seen plans for numerous housing estates approved on its outskirts have urged planners to insist on “more green spaces and less crowding” following the Covid-19 pandemic.

The call to Hambleton District Council has arisen as part of a wave of objections to a scheme to build 154 homes on fields used to grow cereal crops to the north of Easingwold, despite developers offering to give land to a primary school with inadequate recreational facilities.

The response to developer Berkeley DeVeer’s planning application follows an RSPCA survey which found following the restrictions of the pandemic 84 per cent of respondents wanted Government support for an increase in the number of accessible nature-rich areas.

Environmentalists have argued the figure highlights how nature has been important for maintaining people’s health and wellbeing during lockdown.

In planning documents lodged with the authority the developer said alongside the homes, its scheme would feature areas of open space, including a children’s play area. as well as footpaths through the site.

The developers stated: “These pedestrian routes will increase the permeability of the site as well as provide a valuable accessway into the proposed children’s play areas and open space for both proposed and existing local residents. The development blocks have been offset from the site boundary to ensure that the existing trees and hedgerows can be retained to protect a sense of place and history as well as reduce the visual effects.” Berkeley DeVeer added North Yorkshire County Council had identified recreational facilities at Easingwold Community Primary School as being “undersized”, so it would give land for the school to use as playing fields.

However, within days of the plans being lodged, residents have condemned the proposals, saying while they appreciated more housing was needed in Easingwold, the proposals would not resolve the shortage of smaller starter homes to help keep young people in the area.

One objector said while Easingwold had been “subjected to a huge amount of development over the last few years”, including five large-scale housing estates, there had been no improvements to infrastructure, such as improved NHS facilities. They said with few new job opportunities it meant the majority of residents had to commute to York, Harrogate, Leeds or the North-East.

Residents also claimed the developer’s offer of donating playing fields was “a poisoned chalice”, which would take finances away from academic needs at the school.

A common theme among the objections has been that the scheme features “houses tightly packed together, with very little green space for the potential children of the estate to play in”. One of the objectors said: “The playground is extremely small considering the number of proposed houses. With the current global pandemic, studies have shown that children and adults who do not have access to outside space are significantly more likely to suffer from mental health issues than those who do have access to outside space. This proposal should be rejected until more park space is allocated.”