THE Joseph Rowntree Foundation's hope that its Derwenthorpe scheme might finally go before planners by Christmas have been dashed.

City of York Council says it will not consider the controversial proposal for a 540-home model village on York's outskirts until at least the end of January - and possibly not until February.

The further delay will heighten concerns that some Government funding for affordable housing, allocated for Derwenthorpe in 2004-05, might be lost.

Even if councillors are minded to approve the application, there will inevitably be another wait while the Government decides whether or not to call it in for a public inquiry.

The foundation has said that work needs to start by the spring to take advantage of the first phase of funding for affordable homes.

Having submitted its planning application to the council in August 2003, the foundation originally hoped it would be considered before last Christmas.

But the scheme met with strong protests from local residents, and also hit technical difficulties ranging from flooding concerns to the presence of a protected species, the great crested newt.

A city council spokesman said such concerns had now been addressed, but the authority did not feel it would not be right to discuss such a scheme at the planning meeting on December 23, so close to Christmas.

He said a lengthy report would also need to be completed before the matter could go on the agenda.

He added that another major housing scheme, involving 700 homes at Germany Beck, would also be considered in the New Year, but it had not yet been decided at which meetings the two proposals should be discussed.

Updated: 10:07 Wednesday, December 08, 2004