Concerns have been raised that Bradford Council will have to sacrifice large tracts of the Green Belt to attract cash-strapped developers.

Councillor Adrian Naylor (Ind, Craven) said new planning guidelines from the Government encouraged local authorities to boost the economy by promoting development.

He said once the Council revealed its new housing allocations, developers would cherry-pick the leafier areas first, as these were easier and more profitable sites to build on.

He said: “The Government focus on planning for need will lead to Bradford having to release large tracts of Green Belt which will be developed, but overall the new housing targets will not be met.

“Developers will love areas such as Ilkley or Wharfedale, but will leave the expensive, more difficult city centre sites undeveloped.”

Councillor Val Slater, executive member with responsibility for housing, agreed the Government’s current planning policy could endanger green space.

She said: “We do have concerns that Government planning policies could mean developers being able to ride roughshod over local opinion and put green space in jeopardy. However, our Local Plan will protect land and provide clear guidance to developers on preferred sites and what type of development can be built there.

“This means we can be very clear about whether a site is appropriate for the use a developer proposes for it and strengthen our position in any potential legal challenges from developers about land use. Our priority is to ensure that building is done on brownfield sites first.”

Councillor John Penning- ton, Conservative planning spokesman, said developers were struggling to sell their homes because people couldn’t get mortgages.

He said: “I think they are going to be very hesitant to build anything so Coun Naylor is right, they are going to cherry-pick the green areas.”

He said one solution would be to get the banks lending again.

Leader of the Liberal Democrats at the Council, Councillor Jeanette Sunder-land, said no more green fields should be allocated for housing. She said: “What the Council ought to do is just dig its heels in and say, ‘This is our plan’, not start rolling over about Green Belt or urban green space.

“It should dig its heels in and say, ‘No, we want to solve the problem of what we do with the city centre’.”

She said Bradford’s young people were migrating to Leeds, where they could buy city centre flats. Elizabeth Helmich, of the Heaton Residents’ Association, agreed the city centre needed development.

She said: “People say they love Bradford, but they will move out if the city doesn’t offer them what they need.

“We should be using Bradford’s brownfield sites to build these houses. An awful lot aren’t being built. The Council needs to stop pussyfooting around and make sure they go ahead.”