One of Bradford’s longest-running planning sagas has taken a twist after developers submitted plans to improve access to the site.

Redrow Homes and Bellway Homes Ltd have been locked in a battle with campaigners over plans to build up to 440 homes in Sty Lane, Micklethwaite, Bingley.

The plans were rejected by Bradford Council amid concerns about access. The applicants appealed the decision and an appeal hearing is due to start in February.

However, the applicants have now submitted plans for a swing bridge over the Leeds-Liverpool Canal to replace the existing swing bridge (pictured).

The scheme, which has been recommended for approval, is designed to improve access at the site and campaigners fear the amended plans could pave the way for a planning inspector to pass the plans.

Terry Brown, chairman of Greenhill Action Group, which has spent thousands of pounds fighting the development, said: “If the planning panel approves the swing bridge application it will give the wrong message to the planning inspector and will only add to the developers’ armoury.

“I can’t see how Bradford Council can possibly go to the planning panel with the recommendation of approval. One of the reasons the panel voted six to one against the housing application before them in September was that a swing bridge was an unsuitable way to access such a large estate.”

Shipley Area Planning Panel will consider the latest plans at a meeting in Shipley Town Hall on Wednesday.

Because the swing bridge application is part of the appeal, councillors will not be granting or refusing planning permission but their decision will be noted by the Government inspector.

The new proposals include replacing the single-lane swing bridge at Micklethwaite Lane with a larger two-way swing bridge.

The developers say the new bridge would improve access but a number of complaints have already been lodged.

One of those quoted in the report for panel members says: “The proposed new bridge will be three times wider than the original bridge and will destroy the conservation area.”

Others fear the infrastructure in Crossflatts and Bingley is “inadequate” to deal with the influx of new residents should the plans go ahead.

The council report states the application is for the replacement of the existing bridge and should be only considered on that basis. It urges councillors not to consider the bridge in terms of the associated housing site.

Redrow and Bellway declined to comment.