Campaigners have lost their fight against a planned development on fields which are popular with sledgers each winter.

And there are fears that the decision could set a precedent for the Kirklees district, which lacks a crucial planning blueprint.

The controversial plan, to build about 54 homes on farmland near the Grade II-listed Lower Blacup Farm in Cleckheaton, was originally turned down by the Heavy Woollen Planning Committee in March, much to the delight of campaigners.

But developer Redrow appealed to the Government’s Planning Inspectorate to overturn the decision, and the inspectors have now found in the developer’s favour.

Planning Inspector Clive Hughes criticised Kirklees Council for not having a long-term development plan in place, meaning there was a shortage of land set aside for housing.

He said: “The benefits of the development are relatively clear-cut.

“The site would provide a deliverable supply of much-needed land for housing in an area where there is no identified five-year supply.”

The news is a huge blow to the Save Lower Blacup Campaign Group, which had urged developers to transform the town’s brownfield sites instead of planning housing schemes on green fields.

The Lower Blacup plan was the first test of Kirklees planning policy since the council withdrew the Core Strategy of its Local Plan.

A Local Plan sets out a council’s long-term planning vision and act as a guide for planning committees and developers on what is and isn’t acceptable.

Kirklees had drawn up a Core Strategy, an early stage document which sets out housing targets among other things, but withdrew it after a planning inspector advised the authority it would fail an inspection into whether it was sound.

Bradford Council is going through the process of creating its own Core Strategy, which has now been approved by councillors and is expected to be sent to the Government for approval in the New Year.

Councillor Val Slater, Bradford Council’s executive member for planning, said the situation in Kirklees demonstrated the importance of having a Local Plan.

She said: “This is the message I have been trying to get over to people – when we don’t have a plan we are vulnerable.

“The fact that the Council has now approved the plan gets us on the first stage, it makes us less vulnerable, but there are other stages we need to go through yet.”