A PIECE of green land cherished by residents has been protected from development after a rethink.

The space had been earmarked for sale, but councillors stepped in to bring it back as public land after a developer pulled out.

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Councillor Jamie Bartch said: “In 2018 the council-owned land was part of a package to be sold to a developer. It was in the pipeline to be sold.

“The developer who were in charge of this backed out this year.”

He said the Darlington Conservative group voted unanimously to protect the green space north of Sparrow Hall Drive, Whinfield.

He added: “We voted as a group instead of selling the land to retain it as a public asset.

“Residents have told us they wanted it saving and that’s what we pushed for the Conservative group to vote on.

“I see it as a victory in that sense because quite a few of our residents have expressed concern with the possibility of it being sold.

“It’s quite a sizeable green patch. It would act as a green buffer. It’s used quite frequently by dog walkers. It’s a natural cut-through into different parts of the area.

“It’s up to cabinet to decide whether the land was sold or not. The decision’s been taken not to sell it.

“We are extremely pleased that this green space is now not being sold.

“This council asset is much used by residents in our ward and the long-term impact of retaining this asset far outweighs any proposed benefit from selling it.”

Now he and fellow Whinfield councillor Andy Keir will look at ways to enhance the area.

Deputy council leader Cllr Jonathan Dulston said there had been “a lot of appetite” for the land.

The Northern Echo: Cllr Jonathan DulstonCllr Jonathan Dulston

But after a group discussion it was decided not to sell it after all, either for homes or access roads.

He said: “Recently we’ve been asked to explore the sale of that land for future development.

“We’ve listened to residents. The two ward councillors have been very vocal around the significance of that green space.

“This particular piece of land we know is important to that community.

“So we had a group discussion... and gave the decision back to council that we wouldn’t want to sell that land, to secure its future.

“The land’s not being sold and that’s our position.

“We’ve come out to say we’ve protected that green space. We’re not prepared to sell it and we don’t want that earmarked for future development.

“We have to be mindful that Darlington is growing, We’ve got more and more people wanting to come and invest. Darlington’s still open for business.

“But we’re always going to advocate the development of our brownfield sites where possible.

“It’s appropriate at times that we’re bold and we protect those green spaces that the communities tell us are important to them, and I think this is a demonstration of that commitment.”

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