A PLAN to build homes on ‘green wedge’ land which separates two south Tees communities have been rejected by councillors.

Stockton Borough Council’s planning committee rejected the recommendation from its own officers to approve the building of 50 homes between Thornaby and Ingleby Barwick.

More than 180 people wrote to the council to object to the plan on grounds that the green land, to the south of Cayton Drive, in Thornaby, was a walking area within the Tees Heritage Park area.

In a report to the committee, planning officers acknowledged that a similar planning application in the same protected wooded area had been refused last year.

However, the report explained authority is not able to demonstrate it has provision for enough houses to deal with expected housing demand over the next five years. Councils in that situation have been routinely losing appeal cases to the Secretary of State for Local Government, Eric Pickles. The council had lost on appeal after rejecting a nearby 350-home development, connected to the building of a free school in Ingleby Barwick. Previously the applicant, Bellway Homes, had not included a quota of affordable or cheaper homes which was a reason to reject it, but this time eight of the new houses would be affordable.

Members of the public spoke at the meeting in Stockton’s Central Library to urge the councillors to reject the application.

Jonathan Skidmore said: “At least 180 residents have actually written in. They’re not specialists but people who care for their local environment and the pleasure it has given to us, an area of high aesthetic value. The five-year housing figures are really crystal ball gazing.”

Another member of the public said that the council’s own policy is that 75 per cent of new housing should be on brownfield land, but the figure is currently just 62 per cent.

Councillor David Wilburn said: “Because of a perverse announcement from Eric Pickles, they’re saying we have no policy on protecting our Green Wedge land. I just don’t accept this.”

Councillor Steve Walmsley criticised the over-development of Ingleby Barwick and the Secretary of State’s decision to allow big new housing projects in the suburb. “Developers have virtually run amok,” he said.

Councillor Ken Lupton also said he would vote against the application, but warned that the committee had to show a greater level of consistency in protecting green wedge land.

The committee voted unanimously to reject the application on the grounds that it was on protected land.