COUNTY officials have hit back at claims they "misled" road chiefs about a controversial planning application.

Proposals to grant a plasterboard recycling facility in Winston, County Durham, permanent permission to operate prompted a strong show of public opposition over traffic safety concerns.

Despite these fears, highways authorities for Durham County Council (DCC) and North Yorkshire County Council did not submit any formal objections to the scheme.

But it prompted one councillor from across the local authority border to accuse planning bosses in County Durham of meddling to ensure nothing was raised.

North Yorkshire County Councillor for Richmondshire North, Angus Thompson said: “Durham County Council officials have misled consultancies, including North Yorkshire county council highways.

“The roads through Caldwell right to the A66 is littered with smashed signs, verges chewed up, damaged bridges because of HGVs using a wholly inappropriate, narrow, twisty road.

“North Yorkshire highways have been unable to place an objection to the application … despite the assurance that was given to me.”

Cllr Thompson was speaking at Tuesday's meeting of the county council’s County Planning Committee, which was held by videolink and broadcast via YouTube to rule on the application.

Staff at DCC’s planning department hit back, insisting there was "no suggestion" they had attempted to mislead the consultation on the proposals and that the relevant highways authorities had been offered several opportunities to comment.

And roads bosses from both DCC and North Yorkshire concluded the expected traffic from the development was "low" and would not pose an "undue risk of damage to the road or conflict with other road users".

Responding to the attacks on council staff, which were also raised during debate on a separate application to build 100 homes in Barnard Castle, committee chairman John Robinson offered his support.

He said: “Certain comments have been made about the officers and I, on behalf of the County Planning Committee, want to reassure all our [council] officers, from all disciplines, that they have the complete support of the authority.

“When we make a decision on planning, it is purely upon planning policy and planning reasons, not upon individual council members.

“I wish to formally apologise for any upset that has been given to any member of either the council or its officers.”