A HEARING has taken place over a council’s refusal to grant planning permission for three new gypsy pitches on the outskirts of Darlington.

Romany Gypsy Billy Cairney lodged an appeal last December after councillors denied him permission to add three additional pitches to his existing three-pitch site off Aycliffe Lane, Brafferton.

The proposal also includes the erection of three amenity buildings, plus the widening of the site access and an internal track, but Darlington councillors refused it on the grounds that it would be visually intrusive within its rural location.

Speaking at the appeal hearing at Darlington Town Hall, Mr Cairney said the extra pitches would be used by his two eldest sons and their wives, and his 70-year-old mother who currently lives in a house in Darlington.

Mr Cairney said he wanted his family close and that being able to provide permanent pitches would stop his sons from “taking off in their caravans to live on the roadside”.

Representing Mr Cairney, town planner Andrew Moss said Darlington Borough Council was currently failing in its duty to provide enough accommodation sites for gypsies in the borough.

He also described the proposed site as being within an “urban fringe” area bisected with main roads and a railway rather than in open countryside, which diluted the council’s visual impact argument.

Mr Moss said: “My view is that there is not an unacceptable negative impact arising from the proposed development.

“I accept that it will have some impact, but to my mind it is not unacceptable.”

Darlington Council planning officer Adrian Hobbs disagreed, saying: “We have always tried to resist it (development) in this area because in our opinion it has always been unacceptable and now you have an application to almost triple the size of the existing site.

“In our opinion this particular application is unacceptable and I don’t think there are conditions you can impose to make it acceptable.”

However, when questioned by Government Planning Inspector Richard McCoy, Mr Hobbs conceded that Darlington Council was not currently providing a sufficient five-year supply of gypsy pitches.

Mr Moss said that this supply deficit was a material consideration that carried considerable weight in regard to Mr Cairney’s application.

Sadberge Ward Councillor Brian Jones admitted that the council had “a mountain to climb” to increase the number of gypsy pitches in Darlington but he expressed concern that too many extra pitches had already been approved in the Brafferton area.

“The more that goes there, the more significant the visual impact is,” he said.

A decision on the planning appeal is expected to be made within the next couple of months.