A DISHEARTENED parish council has had to put its plans for a safe route to the next village on the back burner.

The saga came to an abrupt halt on Monday evening when Neasham councillors were told the farmer wanted more than £20,000 for his strip of land.

Coun John Weighell, chairman, said: "That is totally out of the question."

The council has been trying for years to move walkers off the busy main road by providing a link between the Teesdale Way and Hurworth, which has the two villages' main facilities.

Neasham has a pub, but no shops or schools, and some parents have said they would like their children to be able to walk there.

A path wide enough to take walkers, cyclists and horse riders was the favourite, but in April the council was warned it could be a very expensive option to put it between two protective hedges.

This week the chairman said the two remaining options were to put a bid to the national lottery or leave it in the hands of Darlington Borough Council - where it had a low priority.

"We have got as far as we can go now. We will just have to put it back until there is a death on it and see what can be done then," added Coun Weighell.

Coun Pat Murray said he had some experience in getting sports money from the lottery and he was willing to explore that possibility.

Coun Eric Miller, a farmer, said: "The £20,000 is absolute peanuts for that land. Perhaps we can try to get Hurworth to go halves with the cost, although the path is of no real benefit to them. At least we have a ball park figure now, which is something."

Coun Peter Foster said Hurworth Parish Council it did not have enough money of its own to be able to help financially.