GREEN Party Leader Natalie Bennett today joined campaigners fighting controversial plans for closure and redevelopment of a prized farm at Milner Field, Gilstead, Bingley, during a visit to the district.

Mrs Bennett met tenant farmer David Downs and his wife Stella at the dairy farm started by his great-great-grandfather and whose 180 Friesians provide milk for 2,000 local homes.

Owner the Hartley Property Group has applied to change the historic land use and create the Bradford Innovation Centre, which would include laboratories and facilities for start-up businesses with some of the site used for research work by the University of Bradford and Bradford College

Plans show a centre which will include office space, research wet labs, a cafe and a 100-space car park and have been submitted with the support of the university.  The developer has stated these plans mean an old farm building will be replaced with new ones within exactly the same footprint and all the fields, trees and woodlands unchanged.

But opponents fear once it is no longer designated as a farm, those plans could be ditched in favour of residential development.

"No-one is adverse to the idea of an innovation centre, but there are so many brownfield sites which are empty and scarring nearby town centres that would be close to transport, bus and rail stations and so much better," Mrs Bennett said.

"The fact it could be at risk of being zoned for housing is very worrying.

"The Victorians made this a model farm which was needed to supply local food and it is still a very successful business.

"Also people who live in surrounding homes do not want heavy construction traffic on their narrow road and then extra traffic were it to be built."

Mr Downs said that if a change of planning use were approved by Bradford Council that would instantly end his tenancy rights.

"They could apply to put anything here just to do that - even a space station.

"And once that's been achieved another planning application could easily be put in, they wouldn't even need to build anything."

Local resident Erica Baker was at Milner Field farm and said there was no infrastructure to support and residential development.

"We couldn't cope with any increase in traffic and Eldwick Primary School is already oversubscribed.

"There's no clarity about what's really going on here and it makes us all so cross - it just beggars belief."

No-one from the developers was available for comment and Bradford University still endorses the Innovation Centre scheme.

The first leg of her visit was in Leeds, which included a visit to flood-hit communities in Otley