A plan to allow 16 caravans, motor homes or tents on agricultural land has been approved by councillors.

Ray Glasper asked to change the land's use to a touring caravan and camping site for 16 holiday pitches at Westholme Farm, Walworth Road, Heighington, Darlington.

Some of the plan was retrospective as parts of it - a toilet and shower block, and entrance alterations - had already been built on the five-hectare site.

The site already had a licence, an exemption certificate obtained by the Camping and Caravanning Club, for five caravans and 10 tent pitches outside Darlington Borough Council's control, the planning committee heard.

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Dave Coates, head of planning and development, said: "This application seeks to increase that to 16, which could involve any mixture between touring caravans and tents. We are talking about one extra pitch.

"It does bring into our control much more than we currently have, which is zilch at the moment."

Three householders objected to the plan, citing noise into the early hours, large groups of campers cutting through the housing estate late at night, use of quad and off-road bikes, drones flown across gardens, revving engines and loud music.

Resident Rob Haywood said at the meeting: "We've just heard several times an increase in one unit. Absolute cobblers.

"The site has been well over 25 units several times during the course of this year.

"I was pleased to hear some of these things had been brought to light and the campsite owner is doing something about it."

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He referred to nuisance issues with noise at 1.30 to 2am at times: "It makes quite an impact on you.

"It's just developed ad hoc and it needs reining in. It's far too close to the properties.

"A developer may want to develop the rest of that area. The last thing you'd want is a caravan site in the middle of it.

"I live very close to this development. I'll probably get the thick of it. We have people leaning over the wall, peering into our garden. What can we do about it? Absolutely nothing, it would appear.

"I only want fair's fair. I'm not a moaner or a groaner.

"The site shouldn't be allowed to develop up to the road. I would like to see the development moved away and limited to the numbers."

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In response to objectors' concerns, the applicant set out site rules like how to set up a pitch, a 5mph speed limit, an 11pm curfew, access, parking, use of drones and walking from the site.

Cllr Gerald Lee spoke of complaints and concerns about noise, drones, security, privacy, access and walking into the village.

He said he was troubled by the existing exemption certificate which had more power than the council and rendered its policies "useless".

Councillors voted to follow council planning officers' recommendation to approve the scheme with 10 conditions.

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