AN extension to a council-run gypsy site has been agreed by planning officers after no objections were received to the plans.

Darlington Borough Council announced plans to create an extra 20 pitches at the Neasham Road gypsy site last year in order to meet an additional need for gypsy and traveller accommodation in the town.

Using a £1.8m grant from the Homes and Communities Agency, the Neasham Road site will be extended into a field currently being used for agricultural use, with access from the existing drive.

The council has made a commitment to provide 35 extra gypsy and traveller pitches in the town by 2016.

The extension of the Neasham Road site, which is expected to be complete by early next year, was agreed by councillors in the hope of meeting that target.

The application for planning permission to change the use of the land and build facilities for 20 pitches, an amenity block and an electricity sub-station was passed by planning officers using delegated powers.

There were no formal objections to the extension of the site from any member of the public.

Planning officers liaised with a third party representative for the gypsy community to work on the layout of the site and ensure that it complied with caravan site licence requirements.

None of the £1.8m government grant will be used to improve the existing facilities at the site, although it will benefit from an improved access road and the new electricity sub-station.

A delegated report prepared by planning officers notes that the Neasham Road site is “considered to have a limited impact on local residents”, which may explain the lack of consultation responses.

The report continues: “In terms of visual impact the site is well hidden from public viewpoints and will appear as an extension of the existing site adjacent.

“Considerable pre-application discussions have taken place within the council and with outside agencies and as such the development is considered acceptable.”

The planning department has placed a number of conditions on the site, including that it may only be used by members of the gypsy and travelling communities and that caravans pitched at the site must be capable of being lawfully moved on the highway.

In addition, no commercial activities shall be permitted to take place on the land, including the storage of materials.