A MAJOR scheme to increase parking space at the Memorial Hospital, Darlington, is likely to get the go-ahead.

A sensory garden, new reception foyer and covered walkway are also part of an application to be considered by councillors next week.

But approval would come at a price.

Planning committee members will be asked to give development director John Buxton leave to seek contributions towards the council's costs.

He would ask Durham NHS Trust for money for traffic orders in Hollyhurst Road and Woodland Road; and for £8,000 to relocate a bus shelter.

If such an agreement was met, the director would then have delegated powers to grant planning permission.

This would not please nearby residents who have expressed fears about the impact of more traffic in Hollyhurst Road and the effect on property prices.

Approval would also be on condition of traffic orders preventing parking for a 100m stretch of Woodland Road, either side of Hollyhurst Road.

The trust wants to redesign the car park; increase the number of spaces; change access to the hospital site and alter the main entrance.

The existing 684 parking slots (480 for staff and 204 for visitors) would be increased to 837 - giving 57 more staff spaces and 96 extra visitor places.

The enlarged pay and display area would be provided within a new decked parking site with access from Hollyhurst Road. Twin-decking 5m high would provide a total of 300 visitor spaces.

An internal road would be re-routed around the decking to a drop-off point outside the main entrance with a turning circle for buses.

A new covered walkway would link a sensory garden and staff and public car parks to a new entrance foyer.

A bus stop in Hollyhurst Road would be moved near the entrance to the garden to provide a safe pedestrian link to the hospital.

Objectors say additional parking places would increase the traffic load in Hollyhurst Road to dangerous and unacceptable levels.

There are also worries about the adjacent Memorial Hall, a grade II listed building. It is felt materials used in the decked car park should be traditional to blend in.

Neighbours do not want to look out on to decks of cars, saying this could devalue properties and be an eyesore which should be screened by trees.

The committee will be told that on the basis of bed and staffing numbers, the Memorial could warrant a total of 1,394 parking places and so the proposed increase falls well within adopted standards.