PLANS for a 61-bed elderly care home to be built on green belt land in Darlington has led to the application being referred to the Secretary of State.

St Martins Care has applied to Darlington Borough Council for permission to build a two-storey residential care home with car park on the corner of Hutton Avenue and Riverside Way. The council is keen to endorse the project.

But as the land is owned by the council and is designated in the local plan as open land, the application must be referred to the Secretary of State for a decision.

The building, which will be 33ft at its highest point, would be taller than surrounding two-storey homes in Riverside Way and Hutton Avenue, but not tall enough to merit its refusal on planning grounds.

Eight letters of objection have been received by planning officers with concerns including loss of privacy, loss of view, impact on property values, traffic problems, poor design, being out of scale and noise disturbance.

Some have also expressed fears over possible future uses of the building as a care home for young offenders, drug addicts or people with mental health problems.

However, planning officer Adrian Miller assured residents that this would not be the case.

He said: "One of the many planning conditions attached to this application is that it can only be used as a care home for the elderly.

"The application must be referred to the Secretary of State because the land is in the ownership of the local authority and proposals to build on it would be a departure from the local plan."

Planning committee members meet on Wednesday, at 1.30, to discuss the application.