CAMPAIGNERS battling a local authority’s plans to pave the way for 11,000 new homes over the next 15 years in an area with a 106,000 population have welcomed the appointment of a Government official to scrutinise if the council’s blueprint is sound.

Both community groups in north Darlington and the borough’s Green Party said they had confidence in the ability of William Fieldhouse, as chair of the Government’s examination of Darlington Borough Local Plan, to expose any issues with the housebuilding proposals.

His appointment comes less than a year after he instructed neighbouring Durham County Council to scrap three proposed relief roads before it could adopt its 25,000-home local plan.

Campaigners have unsuccessfully pressed Darlington council to reduce the volume of housebuilding in the borough, much of which it is planning for green fields and parkland on the outskirts of the town. They insist the council’s housing projections are nearly three times that which the Government’s formula says are needed and the extra housing is being enabled to fund new roads.

Councillor Bryony Holroyd, said campaigners were aiming to present a similarly strong case to that put before Mr Fieldhouse in Durham for changes to the local plan, adding: “Excess and unnecessary urban sprawl and road-building is undesirable and unsustainable.”

It is understood scores of residents have made submissions to the Government examination which question the soundness of the plan.

Fellow Green councillor, Matthew Snedker added since Darlington’s Local Plan was written, the Government had strengthened requirements around biodiversity, energy efficiency, and designing for active travel as the default way to get around.

He said: “We believe this plan is development driven and pays no attention to the needs of the people of Darlington. In a period when we have realised the importance of access to wild and open spaces it is irresponsible to build homes that are not needed.”