Campaigners remain concerned over the future over a woodland despite council assurances that it will be ‘protected and preserved’.

A bid to safeguard the vast area of green space at Skerningham, to the North of Darlington, received a boost last week when councillors were told it had been ‘saved’ from felling as part of the proposed garden village development.

The council has also pledged to invest in the woodland to make it more accessible for residents. Yet campaigners have reservations about what the recent announcement means for the future of the site, with fears that a new access road will be created through the woodland.

The latest design code for the development stated that a new distributor road between the A167 and A1150 (Whinfield Road) would be built. The road, planners say, is needed to provide access for up to 1,650 houses and facilities such as a GP surgery and schools which could be built by 2036 in the area. Up to 4,500 could be built on the site beyond that period.

Read more: Skerningham woodland to be 'protected' from huge housing development

The Northern Echo: The Skerningham Garden Village would be a significant extension to DarlingtonThe Skerningham Garden Village would be a significant extension to Darlington (Image: The Northern Echo)

The Skerningham Woodland Action Group say it has been told that if the local distributor road does not go through the woods, then it would render the road undeliverable. However, the council says it is yet to make a final decision on the location of the road.

The design code has now been halted and agreed to a further consultation, as it “fell short on some key objectives” for nearby residents.

Cllr Jamie Bartch, cabinet member for economy, broke the news at a full council meeting last Thursday when he said the developer Theakston has commitment not build any house or commercial developments on the woodland.  Darlington Golf Club also revealed it would not be relocating to the Skerningham area.

There has been a mixed reaction from residents to the ambitious proposal, with objectors concerned it will destroy one of the ‘lungs’ of the town and habitat for wildlife and protected species.

A Darlington Borough Council spokeswoman said: “One of the requirements of the Local Plan Policy is to provide a local distributor road between the A167 and the A1150.

“The detailed design of this road has not been carried out; therefore it would be premature to make comments on the route of the road. The exact route would form part of the details of a planning application.”

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The Skerningham Woodland Action Group says it welcomes the unanimous vote by Darlington Golf Club to not relocate nearer to woodland but is still concerned by the road’s location.

"The developer requested the road alignment to still go through the woodland. We have yet to hear any assurances from Darlington Conservatives regarding this and look forwards to their next announcement confirming this.

"We trust that another consultation will openly and honestly take on board residents' views and incorporate them fully into the Design Code.”