Sewage system 'will not cope' with plans for thousands of new homes, council warned

A visualisation used in the design code planning guidance for the forthcoming Burtree Garden Village
A visualisation used in the design code planning guidance for the forthcoming Burtree Garden Village -Credit:Designe

Darlington's sewage system will not be able to cope with plans for thousands of new homes, the council has been warned.

Plans for 750 homes as part of the Burtree Garden Village development were approved by Darlington Borough Council's planning committee on Wednesday. But residents said the water quality and sewage treatment facilities in the borough are in danger due to the growing population.

Ken Maddison, a retired sewage worker, told the meeting that the Darlington population has increased from 50,000 to over 100,000 since the Stressholme sewage facility was built in 1939. The Environment Agency said additional foul flows from the Burtree development "may put the waterbody at risk of deterioration and prevent the waterbody from achieving Good Ecological Potential."

A statement submitted to the council added: "Therefore, it will not be appropriate to connect the development to Stressholme until the applicant has demonstrated that there will be no environmental impact by accommodating this proposed development and/or until the treatment works are sufficiently upgraded."

Meanwhile, Green Party councillors warned of the waste that could cause environmental damage to the River Skerne. Cllr Bryony Holroyd, member for College ward, said: "We, as a council, have a duty to improve the water quality in the borough and must ensure these combined overflow issues do not make our water quality worse."

The political party's concerns were shared by resident David Clark, who spoke at the meeting. He said: "Last year, we had more raw sewage spills into the River Skerne and Tees than the year before. Could that be down to all the new builds?"

Conservative councillor Gerald Lee requested a decision on the planning application be deferred due to the concerns. "This application does not sit well on my shoulders because of the sewage problems," he told the meeting. However, Darlington Council said it had assurances from Northumbrian Water that it could manage the increased demand. Representatives from Northumbrian Water were not at the meeting to respond.

And cllr Libby Mccollom said she believed the issues raised could be "adequately dealt with" by the responsible local authorities. The Labour councillor encouraged members to approve the application.

"I understand fully that this does not sit well with colleagues, it's not an easy application," she said. "But what has been presented today, the discussion we've had, and the response from officers I feel comfortable to back the decision to approve."