CONTROVERSIAL plans to build a centre for vulnerable children will be discussed at a council meeting this week.

Proposals to transform a farm into a residential therapeutic, education and care facility will be put before a meeting of Darlington Borough Council’s planning committee on Wednesday, February 12.

If permission is granted, Jubilee Wood farm near Heighington will be transformed into a centre catering for youngsters with special needs aged between four and 19.

More than 100 letters of objection have been received in relation to the development, put forward by The Witherslack Group in a bid to accommodate children with special needs including behavioural and emotional difficulties, autism and complex learning difficulties.

Concerns raised by local residents include issues around vehicle access, increased traffic, the safety of horse riders using surrounding roads, impact on the local landscape, fears around security, absconding residents and a potential rise in crime.

One objector said: “Is this a hospital facility for severely disabled youngsters or is it an approved school or Borstal? Will occupants be escaping to be a nuisance to the surrounding farms and villages or will they be effectively hospitalised and safely looked after?”

Others expressed concern that the development meant difficult children would, in effect, be hidden away as “in Victorian times”.

Heighington Parish Council also submitted a detailed objection to the plans echoing many of the concerns raised by residents.

Some letters of support were received, with one stating “I believe it will be good for the area and building it in this area will be fantastic for the development of the people at the facility, giving them a better start in life.

“I disagree with the scaremongering tactics which are being used by the people against this project…”

Planning permission is recommended for approval subject to conditions including a limit on residents, the implementation of a noise impact assessment and the carrying out of a road safety audit.