A PROTESTER has sent a letter to Transport Secretary Chris Grayling urging him not to allow Darlington's Northern Bypass road to go ahead, as she accused the council of 'destroying the last of our green belt'.

Alex Swainston, of Brafferton, said she felt the road was solely for the purpose of unlocking land for a proposed 4,000 homes at Skerningham, just to the north of Darlington – and hit out at the council's plans for thousands more homes across the borough in its upcoming Local Plan - more than the need predicted by Government data.

In the letter, she says: "I am... writing again to urge you and your peers to look closely at Darlington Borough Council's motives for this unnecessary road and their desire to do nothing more than destroy the last of our green belt land in our area to build yet more houses above the government’s recommendations.

"We have no services left to warrant this increase with libraries closing, astronomical car parking fees, no street cleaning, careers service, youth service left. No bus service to our rural villages. To top it all a hospital with wards such as maternity and A&E under threat of closure... yet the ridiculous notion of building all these homes which will increase the local population.

"No-one wants more homes built when it's one of the hardest areas to sell in and no-one, other than the minority who stand to profit, wants our beautiful countryside destroyed by houses and roads."

Ms Swainston said she moved to Brafferton from Middleton St George as she wanted her daughter to grow up in the countryside – but she feared all the rural communities around Darlington were being built up.

Chris McEwan, the council's cabinet member for economy and regeneration, said: “People are retiring and living longer – the Office for National Statistics (ONS) figures are using census data, but they also have centralised and trend models. It’s not a question of that the ONS have got it wrong, it’s just not purely right for us.

“We haven’t been selective here – we’ve asked our independent consultants who have worked with a lot of authorities, to look at this for us off-site and they've developed a model and come back to us and said the ONS haven’t got it right.

“In the Local Plan, we’ve got to plan for our housing need and our needs going forward – in terms of employment and growth ambitions on top of that.”

The council Local Plan includes proposals for nearly 10,000 new homes over the next 20 years to 2036, the predicted need by consultants.