CONTROVERSIAL Gypsy site proposals that attracted hundreds of objections from villagers who raised £7,700 to fight them have been granted on appeal.

The two applications to convert land off Walworth Road in Heighington into private Gypsy sites received more than 400 objections from residents who formed the Heighington and District Support Group to oppose them.

The group hired a planning professional who submitted a report to Darlington Council, which refused permission for the sites last September.

Visual impact and increased pressure on village services were among the council’s reasons for refusal, but following an appeal in April, Government planning inspectorate Gareth Symons overturned that decision.

Now the development of up to eight caravans plus septic tanks and amenity blocks can go ahead.

Sharron Marshall, a member of the Heighington and District Support Group, said: "We are disappointed about the decision but we will move on and embrace the development and thank everybody for their support."

The £1,344 that remains in the community account will be retained for the time being.

Heighington Parish Council chairman Brian Anderson admitted that he was “very disappointed” at the appeal decision but said that the village must now accept the Gypsy sites will be built.

He said: “We were always fearful that it could have gone ahead because of the situation right the way through the country, because in fairness the Government is on the side of Gypsies.

“All the policies that come forward seem to be what the Gypsies want.”

Permission for the two sites was granted with a range of conditions including no trade or business being allowed to take place on them and no more than four caravans built on each one.

In his decision report, Mr Symons concluded that the Heighington landscape was capable of absorbing the development and that village services would not be overly affected given the small number of pitches.

Noting objectors’ concerns about so-called ‘windfall’ sites springing up and expanding across Darlington borough, Mr Symons said that there was no evidence this would happen in this case and that each proposal should be considered on individual merit.

He also pointed out that there is a shortfall in Gypsy and traveller site provision in Darlington.

An assessment carried out across the Tees Valley in 2009 concluded that 142 more pitches were needed by 2021- of which 98 were to be in Darlington.

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