SEWER problems in South Craven will never go away no matter how much money water companies have to spend on them, a drainage consultant has revealed.

Independent consultant Chris Wotherspoon said that a lack of cash was preventing Yorkshire Water from carrying out upgrading work on the Keighley low level sewer.

He has already concluded that the sewer system does have some problems, but they are no worse than any others across the country.

"Most, if not all urban systems suffer from some sort of deficiencies," he said. "You're never going to get to the stage where you'll remove all deficiencies, no matter how big your budget."

Mr Wortherspoon was speaking at a meeting of the Keighley area planning panel last Thursday.

Members voted not to impose a ban on new housing developments in South Craven after being advised that it would be illegal.

Instead, they are to take steps to urge the water industry to clean up its act.

However, future planning applications in Silsden will come under the spotlight as the town's sewers will not cope with a large influx of new homes.

Calls to ban house building came after campaigners in South Craven produced evidence to show that raw sewage was spewing from manhole covers and there were other problems associated with the Keighley low level sewer - which serves the majority of settlements in the area.

This led Bradford Council to order an independent survey into the state of the sewer.

Environmental campaigner John Walker argued that the sewer system should be problem free.

"More development makes this system worse, there's no getting away from that," he told the meeting."To pass planning applications there must be adequate sewerage infrastructure and there isn't."

Janet Mitchell, from the Silsden Town Action Group, questioned what would be happening in the town following the earmarking of acres of green land for new houses.

Planning officer Colin Waggett said developers would have to come up with solutions to Silsden's sewer problems before any application would be considered, and they would be tied to a legal agreement.

Panel chairman Coun John Cope commented: "I think the planning panel will have to give regard to Silsden when looking at applications."

And he added: "We recognise that there are legitimate concerns that standards are not as we would like them.

"This problem really rests with Parliament and the regulators and not on our backs."

But Coun Eric Dawson (Con, Craven) argued that development must be stopped to prevent future pollution.

"Until these disgraceful instances are recognised and cured we can only take the action which the local people will continue to take and that is to try to stop all future development," he said.

"If these houses are to be built, let us at least get it right before we put at risk thousands of people's health and the environment."

Converted for the new archive on 30 June 2000. Some images and formatting may have been lost in the conversion.