ATTEMPTS to stop a new house being built in an Ilkley garden have left Council Tax payers facing a hefty legal bill..

And members of the Keighley area planning panel have been slammed by a Government inspector for their handling of the long-running saga.

"The Council's actions demonstrate a lack of will to resolve matters and amount to obstructive prevarication that is both unacceptable and unreasonable," states planning inspector Philip Crookes, in his report published this week.

Jim Boddy, of Curly Hill, wanted permission to build a house in the grounds of his home, Homewood, which lies on the edge of Middleton Woods.

A previous application to build two houses on the site was turned down after an appeal to the Department of the Environment (DoE).

The fresh application for one house was also turned down by the Keighley area planning panel, prompting Mr Boddy to turn again to the DoE who upheld his appeal.

Before the latest appeal was heard, Bradford Council contacted Mr Boddy's agent in November last year to say it would not be contested.

Agent, Andrew Rollinson, then submitted an identical planning application hoping planning permission would be granted, thus saving the bother of the formal appeal hearing. Planning officers recommended the application for approval.

However, at a meeting in Keighley, instead of granting planning permission, members of the panel deferred the latest application to enable another report on the fate of trees to be submitted by Mr Boddy.

Before the next planning panel meeting, the appeal hearing at Ilkley Town Hall took place last month when Bradford Council told the hearing it would not contest it.

The appeal went ahead with other objectors, including local residents and Ilkley Parish Councillors left to fight the case on their own.

But according to the inspector's report: "As the council was not contesting the appeal, or producing evidence to support its reasons for refusal, the resubmitted application ought to have been approved. This would have avoided the need to pursue the appeal.

"The council's actions demonstrate a lack of will to resolve matters and amounts to obstructive prevarication that is both unacceptable and unreasonable."

At the appeal hearing, Mr Boddy's agent Mr Rollinson, asked for an award of costs to be made against the council.

In his report, Mr Crookes says: "I find that unreasonable behaviour resulting in unnecessary expense has been demonstrated. I therefore conclude an award of costs is justified."

Following the publication of the damning report, planning panel chairman Councillor Chris Greaves (Cons, Rombalds) said: "I am very disappointed that the inspector thought we were prevaricating - I don't think we were."

He said that members of the panel had been faced with a choice whether to allow the application and make the extra report on trees a condition of planning permission, or to make sure things were right before permission was given, and they chose the latter.

The inspector's report agrees that the building work could put trees in the area at risk and says particular care needed to be exercised during construction. Coun Greaves said the panel had shared that concern.

"I hope Middleton Wood will survive as near unscathed as possible.

"I am very, very disappointed. I am disappointed for the Parish Council and the local residents who will have this thing stuck there," said Coun Greaves.

Ilkley Parish Councillor Kate Brown, who is a member of the Design Statement Group, also attended the appeal hearing and made objections to the proposed development.

Following the publication of the inspector's report, she said: "I am disappointed, because I think it was a matter of principle."

"The house on that site will be over-dominant and out of character with the rest of the properties in that area."

But Mr Rollinson accused the planning panel of wasting Council Tax payers' money by prevaricating over the affair.

"This has gone on a long time and we have finally been proved right. They could've sorted it out a long time ago.

"I am delighted it has finally come to an end," said Mr Rollinson.

He said that the cost to the council of the appeal could run into thousands of pounds to pay for work which had to be undertaken for the appeal by professionals such as planning consultants, architects and tree experts.

Coun Greaves said that any claim for costs would have to include a fully detailed breakdown to make sure it was justified.