Campaigners against a 440-home development on a greenfield site near Bingley have suffered a crushing blow when Bradford councillors voted in favour of the controversial Sty Lane scheme.
And despite describing the decision as “the start of a nightmare” the objectors are now seeking legal advice on challenging the decision.
The successful application by Redrow Homes and Bellway homes follows on from an initial proposal first made in September 2009 and previously dismissed by the Secretary of State for Communities Eric Pickles exactly a year ago after being refused by Bradford Council and a Planning Inspector.
This revised plan, approved today by the Council's regulatory and appeals committee, features a new double carriageway swing bridge over the Leeds and Liverpool Canal to replace the old one on Micklethwaite Lane and tackles previous concerns about access for emergency vehicles by installing instantly retractable bollards at an otherwise blocked entrance to the site from Oakwood Drive.
The bridge and bollard system would be monitored 24 hours a day by CCTV operators in Bradford who would also send out text and email messages to residents should the swing bridge fail and traffic be diverted to the Oakwood Drive junction.
But some 200 protesters packed Bingley Arts Centre for the committee meeting, desperate to voice anger and fears over the new development after 416 letters against the proposal were received by Bradford Council, together with a 1,181 signature petition.
And they were frustrated by only having a strict ten minute slot in which to make all their arguments.
Janet Payn, of Crossflatts Village Society, had barely 30 seconds to speak of the negative impact, unable to finish her speech which had the concluding line: “This would only benefit the developers’ profits and satisfy council officers by providing the perceived number of houses needed, regardless of the safety and welfare of the existing tax-paying community.”
Committee member Councillor Malcolm Sykes spoke repeatedly against the proposal: “We are stuck with a very narrow, country lane environment – the infrastructure just won’t cope. I’m not convinced.”
And Councillor Jackie Whitely also tried to persuade colleagues against the plan because Council officers had not consulted with emergency services over the use of the retractable bollards.
Councillor Imran Khan said it was an extremely hard decision to make.
“To be honest, if I lived in that area I’d be really upset, it’s very difficult but I feel we have no choice but to approve this," he said.
“I know it’s an unpopular decision, but we haven’t got any real planning reasons to refuse.
Committee chairman Councillor David Warburton said he had made private visits to view the site in preparation for the decision and he too could not see a reason to reason to refuse as in his opinion the developers had made every effort to remove earlier stumbling blocks.
The vote was carried by five votes to two in favour and was met with loud cries of “Shame on you!”
After the meeting, Terry Brown, chairman of the Greenhill Action Group, said it was “a sad moment”.
“We will not give up, we’re taking legal advice as we believe Bradford Council has not followed due process,” Mr Brown said.
All three Bingley ward councillors also spoke passionately against the plan during the meeting and later expressed their disappointment
Councillor John Pennington said: “Granting this will cause mayhem for years to come – they have not listened to the people.”
“It’s a case of profit over community and when that bridge breaks down, which it will, there’ll be 1,000 souls trapped up there,” said Councillor David Heseltine.
And Councillor Mark Shaw said: “They didn’t even bother to contact the emergency services over an issue of such importance,” said Councillor Mark Shaw.