A MAJOR step forward in the Darlington Healthy New Towns initiative is expected to take place later this week.

Plans for 81 properties on a former equestrian centre, off McMullen Road, are recommended for approval by members of Darlington Borough Council's planning committee on Wednesday afternoon.

The housing scheme, which is a mix of two, three and four bedroomed properties, is an initiative to improve the health and wellbeing of residents in the town.

It was announced last year that NHS England had selected a handful of new major housing projects across the country where joint working between health agencies and developer’s was to be actively encouraged.

The proposed site consists of open land, with residential housing within the Redhall estate to the south, whilst the remaining open land forming part of the River Skerne corridor, lies to the north of the site.

Keepmoat Homes says the project is focusing on the eastern growth area of Darlington because it has “significantly higher premature mortality rates, higher levels of worklessness, emergency hospital admissions and an ageing population that wants to stay near their community”.

The proposal has received three letters of objections raising concerns about a loss of trees, an increase in air pollution, loss of open land and have a negative impact a conservation area.

Planning officers are recommending the scheme for approval as they believe it will conserve and enhance the natural environment.

The planning meeting is due to take place on Wednesday from 1.30pm in Darlington town hall.