A GROUP of about 60 protestors battling plans to build a road through a stretch of countryside confronted the people who will decide the site's future yesterday.

The meeting of the two parties came as Darlington borough councillors made a site visit in the village of Barmpton to see the land for themselves.

An application has been submitted to construct an access road and car park in a field near Barmpton Lane to provide access to Skerningham Manor, which is being developed into a countryside gateway site.

Furious neighbours, led by Brian Pavey, were joined by backers from the Green Party and the Council for the Protection of Rural England when they brought the bus carrying the councillors to a halt.

Eventually, after a confrontation, Councillor Clifford Hutchinson was handed a petition of more than 200 names, and about 30 letters of objection, to go with letters already received by the council.

They will gather again at Darlington Town Hall on Tuesday, when the council's planning committee meets to make a decision on the application.

Mr Pavey said: "At the end of the day, when they make that decision it's going to affect a lot of people."

He said there were fears that the area would not only visually damage a beautiful area, but also attract disreputable types, such as drug takers.

"We are objecting because of the things it's going to bring to the area," he said, adding that a hedgerow which would be destroyed in the plans had been there since 1800.

Protestors said the site could be accessed via Glebe Road, which would be more suitable.

Coun Hutchinson said: "I think it was a very good visit. We looked at every angle of the thing, not only from the Barmpton Lane end, but also from Glebe Road."

He said protestors joined the councillors and added: "They will have their say again on Tuesday. We will see how it goes from there."