A PROPOSAL to triple the size of a remote hamlet on the site of what is thought to be a medieval village has been recommended for approval, despite fears it could lead to cars plunging off a narrow lane into farm fields.

An officer’s report to a meeting of Darlington Borough Council’s planning committee on Wednesday states the conversion, alteration and extensions of agricultural buildings to create nine homes and three garage blocks would  significantly enhance West Newbiggin, near Sadberge.

The proposal follows a farm on the site closing its pig operation and focusing on free-range egg production in modern buildings nearby, leaving several barns redundant.

The report states the farm is probably 18th century, which it states was a period of incredible development in agricultural techniques to improve output, including the mechanisation of activities previously done by hand and animal power. It adds: “It is possible that West Newbiggin farm is all that remains of a medieval village.”

The council’s historic environment record officer has concluded West Newbiggin was clearly a high status farm, and supports its conversion, but has recommended a record is made of the farm buildings before they are converted to residential use.

However, both East and West Newbiggin Parish Meeting and Sadberge Parish Council have objected to the proposal on road safety grounds.

While the minor road leading to West Newbiggin has been recently upgraded with passing places, a parish meeting spokesman said the lane remained unsuitable for increases in traffic.

He said: “The agricultural field which runs alongside the narrow road has recently been ploughed in such a way that a dangerous drop of several feet exists to the side of the road and this drop is liable to cause damage to any car, passengers or pedestrians that inadvertently come off the road and land in the field. Cars have come of this road many times over the years.

“Access on to Norton Back Lane from West Newbiggin still remains hazardous and any additional traffic from the proposed new housing site will primarily need to go through the village of Sadberge which will not be welcomed.”

Sadberge Parish Council said the number of vehicles passing through its village already threatened residents’ safety and any further development with its main access via through the village would increase safety concerns further.

Nevertheless, the planning officers’ report to the meeting states: “Whilst objections state that the access road is fundamentally dangerous owing to its restricted width, clearly this is an existing situation and not something that is physically changed by this proposal.”

It stated a review of the most recent five-year police accident statistics confirmed there have been no recorded incidents either on the narrow road to West Newbiggin or on Darlington Back Lane within 1km of the main access junction. 

It added the council’s highways engineer had raised no objections to the proposal, subject to planning conditions to secure two additional passing places on the access road.