ANGER is growing at controversial plans to create a sprawling retirement village in the heart of the North Yorkshire countryside.

Proposals for the 300-home community on agricultural land between Thirsk and Northallerton have now been lodged with Hambleton District Council.

Thornton Fields, as the multi-million pound development is known, would be on the edge of Thornton-le-Moor and, at 60 acres, cover a larger area.

It would be home to around 450 people - again more than the village itself - and would be complete with a wide range of facilities.

The scheme has been put forward by the land-owners, farming couple Nigel and Judy Bell of the award-winning Shepherd’s Purse cheese-makers.

They say there is a need for such a development to give elderly people the choice to live in the countryside - and point to the expected steep rise in the elderly population.

However local people have expressed deep concern at the scheme and the local parish council is expected to call a special meeting to discuss the scheme.

Although a formal vote has still to be taken, parish council chairman Ian Woods, said the authority and the “overwhelming majority” of the local population were firmly against the proposal.

He claimed local consultations had been limited to two meetings, one in neighbouring South Otterington and the other in Thornton-le-Moor.

He said the first had been poorly publicised and the second had been held at the instigation of the parish council and attracted more than 100 people.

Afterwards more than 50 sent objections to property agents Carter Jonas.

One respondent, Patrick Walker, wrote: “It is very difficult to view this proposal as anything but a somewhat cynical attempt at exploitative land development for personal gain without any respect or consideration for the situation of the existing, long-established local community.”

Another, Christine Ogden, wrote: “There is much concern about the increase in traffic along the existing small roads within the village; firstly during the years of construction with large lorries having to drive through the village as well as later when residents move in.”

She added that the site was the only one nearby where deer and hares were regularly seen and pointed out that badgers were in the are also.

Mr Woods said: “It is difficult to argue exceptional need amongst the elderly residents of Hambleton.

“The claim is further belied by the fact that in their publicity Carter Jonas are indicating purchase prices of £200,000-plus for the accommodation units and in addition the entry criteria is the age of 55 - hardly what one would term ‘elderly’.”

The secretary of the local branch of the Campaign to Protect Rural England, Miles Garnett, said: “We are not against every development but this is inappropriate.

“People who have expressed an interest in the scheme do not come from this area and we don’t think it’s necessary to concrete over or develop 60-odd acres for people that really aren’t local.”

Local district councillor Robert Baker said that while there had been some positive reaction locally it had been far outweighed by people against the scheme.

“The concept of continuing care retirement communities is a good one - but whether it is in the right place I am not certain.”