Angry town councillors say they weren't told of talks into plans for 150 new homes in Teesdale village

A GOVERNMENT agency has come under fire from town councillors who claim they were snubbed over talks about proposals for a huge housing development on their doorstep.

The Homes and Communities Agency (HCA) – the Government's housing and regeneration body for England - organised a consultation event into plans for up to 150 homes on the car park and other land in front of Deerbolt Young Offenders' Institution, at Startforth.

Although the event was held at The Witham arts complex, in Barnard Castle, no-one from the town was told about it and leaflets were only circulated in neighbouring Startforth.

Furious town councillors say the Deerbolt housing scheme, along with a further 75 houses elsewhere in Startforth which have already received outline planning permission, will have a huge impact on the town and its services.

Councillor John Watson told Barnard Castle Town Council's planning committee the HCA had made a serious blunder.

“The use of that site at Deerbolt for housing is not an area for debate as it has been given the green light by planners and it is being built into the County Durham plan," he said.

“The agency called a meeting involving Startforth Parish Council and ignored us in Barnard Castle.

“However, Barnard Castle is the source of the services that will support those dwellings.

“We must make contact with the agency demanding they rectify this serious blunder.”

Coun Watson added: “We really need to get them to do the job properly. Just an apology is not good enough.”

HCA spokesman Tom Hustler said the agency was keen to ensure the views and opinions of both Barnard Castle and Startforth were heard as part of process to develop land outside Deerbolt YOI.

“We have worked more closely with Startforth Parish Council because they are more directly involved,” he said.

“We are in the process of deciding what else we will do, but whether or not we do another consultation event will depend on a range of issues.”

Mr Hustler said the decision to only publicise the consultation event in Startforth was down to the costs involved.

“The reason we did not leaflet drop in Barnard Castle is cost – we had to draw the line somewhere," he said.

“We are a government agency and it would have been questionable value in the current economic climate.”

Barnard Castle Town Council's planning committee agreed to write to the HCA to highlight their concerns.

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