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Anger at U-turn over greenfield housing site
9:00am Thursday 11th October 2012 in News
Campaigners vowed to continue their fight against plans for 292 homes on greenfield land in Allerton after councillors made a shock u-turn and withdrew their objection to the scheme during an emergency meeting yesterday.
Members of Bradford Council’s Regulatory and Appeals Committee said their “hands were tied” as they agreed to withdraw their objections to the development at Pitty Beck after hearing the firm behind the plans had offered to increase its contribution towards education provision in the area.
Last month, the Telegraph & Argus reported how protesters believed they had scuppered a re-worked plan for the Allerton Lane scheme when Bradford councillors found there were still three major grounds to refuse the application – its low contribution to improving schools, only offering a small amount of affordable housing and no offer of Metro assistance to residents.
An original plan, which was rejected by Bradford Council, was due to go to a public inquiry in November.
But yesterday’s meeting heard developers Hallam Land Management had sent a letter to the Council offering to increase its contribution towards education – a week before the committee was to send its reasons for refusal to the Planning Inspectorate.
Four of the six members of the committee voted in favour of withdrawing its objection in light of the improved offer after hearing it could stave off the threat of a public inquiry.
But speaking after the meeting, Coun Malcolm Sykes (Con, Thornton and Allerton), who has campaigned against the scheme, said: “This fight is not over.And we will continue to fight for a transparent explanation of what has gone on.
“The fact is that after so much deliberation over nine months, the developers only made this offer on Friday when there was no time for the officers to do anything and now everything had to suddenly be rushed through. That meant people were not able to oppose this properly. It’s not right.
“I don’t think there was any intention of this going to appeal. Now all objections will be dropped and everyone will go home happy, except for all those local residents who opposed this throughout and thought they’d fought the good fight and won.”
A supplementary report, prepared for the committee, said Hallam Land Management would now give £1,050,000 towards education provision compared to the £237,833 it had initially offered, but would offer no affordable housing as part of the scheme.
It will also give around £462,167 towards highways improvements.
The document warned members if the application went to a public inquiry, either side could apply for costs and “experience has shown that awards of costs can result in the payment of substantial sums”.
Councillor Imran Khan (Lab, Bowling and Barkerend) said: “There’s a very good chance that when this goes to appeal we will not get any money and we will be in a position where Bradford taxpayers are having to find £1 million to put into education in the area.
“I think our hands are tied on this. We have gone through all the arguments and I don’t think we have a choice.”
But Coun Sykes urged the committee to continue with its objection, saying: “I find it a very distressing situation to find myself in, where you are being presented with a report that gives you no opposing views.”
David Hemsley, chairman of Friends of Pitty Beck, an action group against the plan, said he and its members were disgusted that planners had steamrollered the matter through at such speed.
“We only found out about this meeting the night before with no time to make arrangements to attend,” he said.
“That’s not democratic or even fair - it’s been a one-way street in favour of the developers.”
Coun Anne Hawkesworth said she would abstain from the vote, while Coun Valerie Binney voted against the deal.