Contentious plans to demolish a Shipley pub to make way for road improvement works have been approved, although the roadworks could be years away.

And the chair of the planning panel that approved the demolition quipped that she would be surprised if the new road was built in her lifetime.

Today, members of Bradford Council's Keighley and Shipley Area Planning Panel approved the demolition of The Branch pub on Bradford Road.

The Council purchased the pub earlier this year with a view to demolishing it as part of a £42 million road improvement project between Shipley and Bradford, to be funded by the West Yorkshire Combined Authority.

The planning application to demolish the pub led to a huge amount of objections.

However, the meeting heard that many of these objections were to do with concerns about the proposed roadworks. They were told that their job at the meeting was only to decide on the demolition.

The pub is thought to date back to at least 1850, and is one of the oldest existing buildings in Shipley.

Martyn Burke, planning officer, said: "People have expressed affection for this pub, but this is not a listed building. It is not in a conservation area, and it has been closed for a number of years.

"A lot of objections are to the road improvement plans, but those plans will be subject to all the relevant processes and public consultations in the future.

"The loss of a pub can have serious implications for the community, but in this case the pub has been empty for years, and there are other pubs in the area. The fact is, this pub has been for sale and it hasn't attracted any interest from pub operators."

He said demolishing the pub would have a minimal impact on the protected Saltaire World Heritage site.

Councillor Vick Jenkins (Lab, Shipley) said: "I'm asking you to halt the decision. Maybe these roadworks could bring improvements, but maybe they will bring more traffic. You are putting the cart before the horse - demolishing the pub before you know what benefits will come.

"You say the demolition will not have a significant impact on Saltaire, but don't the people of Shipley have a claim to their own heritage?"

Paul Barratt, one of the objectors, said the fact the site had been earmarked for road improvement works for a decade may have put potential buyers off. He added: "It is one of the few remaining Georgian buildings left standing in Shipley.

"These objections aren't about saving The Branch, it is a campaign for due process. People don't necessarily have an attachment to the building, but they want to know if we are losing something without knowing what we'll be getting back. That is what local people have got upset about."

The meeting was told that after demolition, the site would be transformed into a green open space until any roadworks began.

Richard Bruce, Principal Engineer, Highway Services spoke at the meeting, saying the roadworks would be part of highways improvements that also included "problem areas" like Otley Road, Valley Road, Canal Road and Manningham Lane.

He added: "This is a very, very early stage, and it could take quite a number of years for work to start. It will all be subject to consultation."

He said demolishing the pub would help reduce costs of maintaining the building until the roadworks started.

Chair Councillor Doreen Lee (Lab, Keighley East) said: "Any highway improvements have to go out to consultation, you can't just build a highway." She said with budget cuts to similar projects across the country, the road changes were unlikely to be anytime soon, adding "The council has no money. If that junction work gets done in my lifetime, I'll eat this report."

The panel then voted to approve the demolition, with Cllr Lee ensuring objectors there would be full public consultation on the highway works. She added: "If there isn't I'll be out with my banners marching with you all."