TACKLING climate change and the housing crisis at the same time is “a near impossible task” councillors have been told ahead of approving plans for 464 “traditionally-heated” homes.

Darlington Borough councillors voiced frustration over housing developers “ticking boxes” rather than designing properties to be as energy efficient as possible as they considered the design details of a scheme for the estate at Stag House Farm beside the A1(M).

When asked whether the homes would include any innovative energy-saving features, a spokesman for the developer Esh Homes told the meeting the properties would meet a high energy rating standard.

He said: “All the houses are designed to comply with building regulations which has a big emphasis on glazing and insulation to try and keep the bills down. That is the sort of standard that is set now.”

In response, Councillor Gerald Lee said while the council presently had no power to insist on developments including green solutions, such as solar panels, with climate change “around the corner” it was sad that builders were not taking responsibility and including more innovative features.

He said: “We all now know we are heading into a very difficult period of time and you people building have got the wherewithal to reduce carbon footprint quite simply but you never do.”

Tom Winstanley, of Barratt Homes, told the meeting developers were working with councils to introduce environmentally-friendly features. He added: “It is something we do look into, we are not completely ignoring it. We are constantly looking to see how we can build sustainably.”

Nevertheless, members said it was “nonsensical” that higher sustainability standards were not being more actively pursued by the authority.

The committee’s former chairman, Councillor Paul Baldwin told members that the cost introducing of green solutions could be prohibitive.

He said: “We are desperately short of houses for people and we are trying to save the environment at the same time. It’s almost an impossible task. Environmentally-friendly houses have become so expensive no one can afford to buy them.”

The authority’s planning development manager David Coates said there would be policies within the forthcoming Local Plan for the borough that would make incorporating sustainable energy features in homes a requirement. He added: “It is acknowledged that this is an issue that needs addressing as we move forward.”