PLANNERS have defended proposals to earmark swathes of agricultural land surrounding a town for development.

Darlington Borough Council bosses said while they will work to encourage the development of brownfield sites within the town, the demand for housing will necessitate redrawing Darlington’s boundaries.

The comments comes as the authority unveiled its vision for how the town could look in the coming decades in a draft Local Plan, which following consideration by the public, councillors and the Government will be its bedrock for decision-making for the next 20 years.

The documents reveal to the public for the first time the council’s masterplan for the town, which includes 55 policies, such as transport and protecting historic interests, but also notably sites it considers would be best for housing developments.

The council’s cabinet member for economy and regeneration, Councillor Chris McEwan said while the plan outlines large green field sites for development, it was not intended to cover all of those areas with housing.

He said: “We have drawn a red line around the Skerningham area, but most of it will be fields, greenery or water. We will have to move the boundaries of the town, but to mitigate against that we will be looking to see how we can use brownfield sites. The town centre will not resolve the anticipated number of dwellings we need, but it will have a role to play as well.”

Urging residents to voice their views on the Local Plan ahead of a six-week consultation starting next month, the council’s planning policy manager David Hand said residents could have more influence on developments at this stage than when developers submit plans.

He said: “Planning applications should be dealt with in accordance with an up-to-date Local Plan, which we haven’t got at the moment. The last Local Plan was adopted in 1997, the year Mother Teresa and Princess Diana died and JK Rowling brought out her first book.”

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