VILLAGERS are urging councillors to throw out plans for a controversial housing development near their homes.

People living in Middridge, near Newton Aycliffe, are opposing plans for 270 homes at High Thickley Farm, Shildon, which go before Sedgefield Borough councillors today.

Officers have recommended that an application from Theakston Estates should be approved after members of the development control committee inspect the site this morning.

But David Middleton, who has lived in Middridge for 30 years, fears the development could cause traffic chaos in the village and in nearby High Thickley Park, Shildon, close to Locomotion: The National Railway Museum, which opened last year.

He said: "We have already handed in a petition to the council which has made our feelings quite clear.

"When we raised the petition, we said that we were concerned about the sheer volume of traffic that would be generated by the new railway museum.

"That was before the museum opened and it has attracted far more visitors than the council had estimated.

"These new houses are going to create even more traffic and Spout Lane just cannot cope with that.

"I feel very sorry for those living up there.''

Some residents have told the council they fear Middridge will be swallowed up by Shildon if the development goes ahead.

Mr Middleton also criticised the council for only telling objectors about the meeting last Thursday.

Highways Authority Durham County Council is not objecting to the plans because it is satisfied with proposed road changes along Spout Lane.

It also felt that, because the field has been a working farm, it is a brownfield site and not green belt, as some residents claim.

Nathaniel, Lichfield and Partners, acting on behalf of Theakstons Estates, organised public meetings over the proposals, which also include the creation of informal recreation areas, landscaping and woodland.

Applications for landscaping at the George Reynolds Industrial Estate and for an extra coach and car park for the museum near Dale Road are being considered at the same time