A council has been accused of disregarding its own Local Plan in proposals to demolish a mysterious old park building.

Campaigners who fought successfully to protect the precious "triple-protected" parkland around the grade II listed Blackwell Grange Hotel were dismayed to see plans to demolish a stone building on the site known locally as the "Victorian carriage shed".

The Northern Echo: "The Victorian carriage shed" at Blackwell Grange"The Victorian carriage shed" at Blackwell Grange

Darlington Borough Council plans to restore the historic Blackwell Grange parkland but demolish the building as it is deemed not "economically viable".

Campaigners Michael and Angela Green, who were praised for their work to save the parkland and champion their community, spoke at a council cabinet meeting on Tuesday (July 5).

Read more: 'Bittersweet' result for Darlington Blackwell Grange Parkland

Mrs Green said the demolition of the stone building went against a 2020 heritage impact assessment which said the stone building "should remain in use" and be retained, reused and maintained.

She said: "It does not say 'demolish', but it says maintain, retain, reuse and remain.

"Demolition was not part of the adopted local plan. The adopted local plan intended the building to remain.

"Chair, demolition is so final."

The Darlington Local Plan, which sets out planning priorities for the area until 2036, does not specifically refer to the building but says proposals should be informed by the heritage impact assessment.

Read more: Darlington local plan including Skerningham development is PASSED

The plan - described by the council's ruling coalition as vital to protecting the region from being "at the mercy of developers" - was approved by the council in February.

Councillor Matthew Snedker said: "To hear only a few months later that a document that says a building should be retained, it should remain in place, it should be maintained and renewed, for that to be swept away so easily in the public's view would raise questions about how important this local plan is if it can be ridden over so easily.

The Northern Echo: Cllr Matthew Snedker. Picture: Gareth Lightfoot.Cllr Matthew Snedker. Picture: Gareth Lightfoot.

"This document about the retention of this building was inspected and now forms part of the Local Plan.

"It is in the plan, and to disregard it so easily will allow the public to call into question our intention as a local authority to adhere to this plan, which we were told was vital to protect us."

Read more: Mystery building at the heart of Darlington's newest park

Councillor Scott Durham said the former greenkeeper's building off Carmel Road South was in a state of disrepair and could not be safely occupied.

He said: "Although the heritage impact assessment report, which was referenced in the local plan, advised retaining the building, it's not listed and it's not in a conservation area.

"It's not at this moment in time economically viable to bring that building back into use.

"It obviously was referred to in the local plan but obviously it's an opinion on the building as at that moment in time.

"And as at this moment in time the building is in such a state that it is uneconomical to repair."

The Northern Echo: Cllr Scott Durham. Picture: Darlington Borough Council.Cllr Scott Durham. Picture: Darlington Borough Council.

He said of the heritage impact assessment: "It did clearly say that wherever possible there should be the opportunity to reuse that building."

But he suggested that might have been a "desktop exercise", the building had "limited architectural value" and was in an area "less sensitive to change".

He said reusing it could affect the parkland development, with "a considerable potential cost implication for the council's finances and the wider public".

The Northern Echo: Cllr Nigel Boddy. Picture: Gareth Lightfoot.Cllr Nigel Boddy. Picture: Gareth Lightfoot.

Cllr Nigel Boddy said: "I would urge the local authority to stand by the local plan. It is very important we do that, especially at this most critical time.

"The authority might face a substantial legal bill if the actions of the authority deviated from the local plan.

"We might find ourselves in special measures if we deviate from it."


Keep up to date with all the latest news on our website, or follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

You can also follow our dedicated Darlington Facebook page for all the latest in the area by clicking here.

For all the top news updates from right across the region straight to your inbox, sign up to our newsletter here.

Have you got a story for us? Contact our newsdesk on newsdesk@nne.co.uk or contact 01325 505054