A NEW model village on York's outskirts is set to include a new home for great crested newts, following changes to the original proposals.

But there are concerns that Government funding for badly-needed affordable homes could be lost if the Derwenthorpe scheme is still bogged down in the planning process by next spring.

The developers behind the scheme, the Joseph Rowntree Foundation (JRF), submitted their original application for the 540-home development, near Osbaldwick, to City of York Council in August 2003, hoping it might be decided by last Christmas.

But local residents lodged fierce objections and the scheme hit a series of delays, culminating with the discovery earlier this year of two newts on part of the site.

Legislation makes it an offence to deliberately capture, kill or disturb the protected species, or even damage their breeding or resting sites.

Now the foundation has submitted revised proposals, abandoning plans to build 20-30 homes in the field where the newts were found.

Instead, it is planning to build a new pond in the area to provide a better habitat than the pond where the newts were found, which it says often dries up.

The scheme, drawn up in conjunction with ecologists and English Nature, also includes an amphibian tunnel for the creatures to get to a nearby meadow and a permanent barrier to stop them getting on to nearby roads. There would also be specially-created amphibian hibernation sites.

Nigel Ingram, JRF director of development, said the homes would be built on a different part of the site, which had originally been earmarked to be left as open space.

He said the Foundation was hoping that City of York Council planners would consider the scheme at a meeting in October.

But even if the authority backed the plan, it would still need to be referred to the Government, because much of the land was owned by the local authority, for a decision on whether or not to call a public inquiry.

He feared that, if the proposal did not have the go-ahead by next spring, the first phase of Government funding for affordable homes at Derwenthorpe, allocated for 2004/05, could be lost to York. His target was to have planning permission and ownership of the land by next spring.

A total of £3.2 million has been allocated by the Government-funded Housing Corporation to help build 65 affordable homes for rent and sale over time at the development.

Updated: 14:13 Friday, September 10, 2004