PLANS to encircle Darlington with garden villages should be revised, it has been claimed, following a charity’s report finding such schemes created higher levels of traffic by “condemning their residents to car-dependent lifestyles”.

Environmental charity Transport for New Homes, which is guided by leading figures from bodies including the Royal Town Planning Institute and the RAC, said its study of 20 plans for the government-backed garden villages found most were planned in the wrong locations, lacked local facilities and were designed around car use.

A proposal to build 2,000 homes at Burtree Garden Village in Faverdale over a 15-year period received government support last year, following plans for 4,500 homes at another garden village, in Skerningham, being announced in 2017.

Developer Hellens Group has said the Burtree garden village plans would bring important economic, environmental and social benefits to the borough and have “a transformational impact on the local area bringing much-needed new homes and jobs”.

However, after the charity report concluded funding for walking, cycling and public transport was missing from the schemes, Darlington’s Green Party said the suburban developments featured in Darlington Borough Council’s proposed Local Plan could result in “a doughnut of deprivation”, where town centre businesses and jobs disappear and houses in the town centre fringe become rundown.

While the authority’s leaders have repeatedly said large-scale housing schemes are the only way of getting funding for road developments, the study found garden villages were “likely to contribute to widespread traffic jams on country roads and junctions, and on our motorways and other main roads”.

It added: “We found that nearly every garden village came with large-scale investment in strategic and local road capacity to mitigate thousands of new car journeys onto the road network. This went counter to the notions of self-sufficiency and self-containment.”

Councillor Matthew Snedker, leader of the Green Party group said: “This report confirms many of the issues that have been worrying local residents for years. The report’s authors highlight that so called garden villages often have very small gardens and are designed so that the only way to get around is by car. People without access to a car would have to walk seven miles to buy a pint of milk.

“This report should be a wake-up call as the current Conservative administration is set to encircle the town with new housing estates containing two garden villages. The report gives a stark warning of what we face if these plans aren’t redrawn. They confirm what Darlington Green Party have said all along, the mass allocation of land has been done to force spending on bypasses and new roads yet, residents are likely to face increased congestion while the town centre will see little of the desperately needed increase in footfall.”

Fellow Green Party councillor Bryony Holroyd added: “Councils have suffered huge funding cuts and this has forced them to allocate huge swathes of countryside for housing in a desperate attempt to balance the books. The lack of funds for local public transport, cycling and walking, and the ease of funding for road capacity just makes the situation worse.”

David Clark, of Barmpton and Skerningham Preservation Groups, said the planning system was too weak to get the right results, and the process seemed to favour large-scale developers. He said: “We have learned that our well-trained, yet under-resourced planners are often relegated to box-ticking.”

The council’s economy portfolio holder, Councillor Alan Marshall, said all new developments in the borough would be subject to a range of assessments, including the potential ramifications on traffic and studies by Highways England, before they were approved.