A PLAN to build homes on land earmarked for playing fields at a school not yet built has been unanimously rejected by councillors.
Stockton Borough Council's planning officers recommended approving the scheme to build an extra 77 homes on the site of Ingleby Barwick Free School, at Low Lane, High Leven - between Ingleby Barwick and Yarm
But councillors, who noted developers originally wanted to build 250 homes on neighbouring land in return for school infrastructure funding, disagreed.
Developers, Satnam and Tiviot Investments, have already increased that scheme to 350 homes and now want to extend that development by building a further 77 on land originally designated as a playing field.
The council's planning committee had also rejected the 350 homes plan but the decision was overturned by Minister for Local Government, Eric Pickles.
Tiviot Homes, has also had another scheme refused to build 550 homes nearby, but an appeal is expected.
Yet another plan, also for 550 homes, by Prism Planning, has also been rejected but, once again, an appeal to the Secretary of State is expected.
Discussing the latest playing field plan, councillors heard the Government’s Education Funding Agency now decided it did not need the extra land for a playing field after all. That meant the area is available for housing.
Planning officers explained that because the authority did not have sufficient new homes based on population predictions, it often lost on appeal and it would be better to approve the application.
However, there was strong opposition among councillors who unanimously voted down the plan.
Bob Gibson, chair of the planning committee, said: “That land was clearly ring-fenced for school playing fields. This has just gone too far.”
Cllr David Wilburn said: “It wouldn’t surprise me if we don’t end up with 1,000 houses here and no free school.”
Cllr Steve Walmsley, said: “There was an obsession to get a school built at any price. Well, now we’re paying the price. This is a frenzy, a free-for-all.”
A total of 73 objections were submitted by residents, citing concerns such as traffic and visual impact. The councillors cited infrastructure issues, including ironically, a lack of school places, as reasons to reject the plan.