DEVELOPERS have been forced to go back to the drawing board over plans for a multi-million pound footballing school of excellence to be built in the North-East.

The former Cummins Engines factory, in Yarm Road, Darlington, has been chosen for a JJB Sports Soccerdome development which could bring hundreds of jobs to the town.

But High Point Estates, owner of the factory, has withdrawn a planning application which was submitted to Darlington Borough Council last year.

Council officers had made it clear that a substantial retail element included in the blueprint for the site would lead to the application being recommended for refusal.

Government guidelines encourage town centre shopping and not out-of-town retail developments.

High Point confirmed last night it was revising the proposals in an effort to gain approval for the scheme. The size of the shopping development is likely to be scaled down before another bid is submitted.

Deni Chervak, of High Point, said: "The concept remains much the same, but we are looking at the overall offer and the ratio between retailing and sports facilities.

"We decided it would be more expedient to withdraw the current application and then mod-ify it."

Architects are working on the alterations. Mr Chervak said a revised planning application could be submitted within a month.

The Soccerdome proposals ran into controversy last year when they led to fitness entrepreneur Duncan Bannatyne withdrawing his interest in opening a gym at the nearby Morton Palms site.

He pulled out after the council refused to give a guarantee that it would reject the rival project for going against planning policy.

If approved, the Soccerdome could become one of the country's largest such facilities, providing indoor and outdoor pitches for full-scale and five-a-side games.

A spokesman for Darlington Borough Council said last night: "They have withdrawn the application, but we expect them to resubmit.

"If the planning application had stayed as it was, it would have been recommended for refusal.

"There was also extra information that we needed, such as a traffic impact survey."