VILLAGERS are demanding more information about proposals for a care centre to be set up in their community.

Castlebeck Care has revealed plans to create a centre of excellence for the care of people with autism and communication problems at the former Newbus Arms Hotel, in Neasham, near Darlington.

The 17th Century country mansion is seen by the firm as an ideal location for the centre, which would care for up to 18 people, aged between 18 and 55.

But the scheme sparked concerns among local people, who have taken their fears up with councillors.

The issue was put under the spotlight at the latest meeting of Neasham parish council.

Councillor Mike Townend said that a number of villagers had approached him with their concerns after news of a planning application to Darlington Borough Council emerged.

He said: "The primary concern is if it is meant to be secure and what problems that could present for the surrounding community.

"Some people are worried about whether children in the village will be threatened and they are asking what we are going to do about it as a parish council."

He said that the owners of the caravan site at the Newbus were also worried about the possible effect on their business, should the scheme go ahead.

Councillor Pat Murray said that until the full details of the application were available, it was impossible for the parish council to discuss it properly.

The chairman, Councillor John Weighell, agreed to contact Neasham's ward councillor, Councillor Peter Foster, to see if he had any more information on what was being proposed.

Last week, a group of 30 residents announced that they had serious fears about the development.

However, Castlebeck has insisted that the people being considered for the centre would not present a risk to the general public and did not need high levels of security.

The company said the secluded surroundings are perfect for the likely residents of such a centre.

Referrals would come from the NHS and social services.