A campaign group has described plans for a huge housing estate as a “crack-pot scheme doomed to failure” at the start of a public inquiry into the controversial proposals.

Battle lines have been drawn in the fight for greenfield land at Sty Lane, Micklethwaite, near Bingley, where between 420 and 440 homes could be built under a scheme put forward by developers Bellway and Redrow.

Government inspector Richard Clegg opened the public inquiry yesterday after the developers appealed against Bradford Council’s refusal of planning permission.

Mr Clegg will now decide on the future of the planned housing estate and, crucially, whether to allow a new swing bridge to be built over the Leeds Liverpool Canal, to provide the main access to the site.

Greenhill Action Group (GAG), who have raised £60,000 to fight the plans, have raised fears about road safety and the inability of the transport network to cope with so many new homes.

Jack Smyth, the barrister representing GAG at yesterday’s hearing, said: “The idea that the primary means of access to a 440-home housing estate is a swing bridge is without precedent.

“It is a crackpot scheme which is doomed to failure.”

The inquiry heard evidence from heart specialist Dr Christopher Morley, who warned that lives could be lost unless developers could guarantee there would be no delays in ambulances reaching patients.

Dr Morley, who works at Bradford Royal Infirmary and lives off Greenfield Lane, Micklethwaite, called for proof that there would be no risk to public safety if the swing bridge was closed in the future.

He said: “My considerable concern is that the developers should provide absolute assurance, with proof beyond doubt that there is no risk of delay from the site.

“Each minute’s delay results in more deaths. It is the lives of my neighbours and patients which would be lost.”

The doctor was among about 100 people at the public hearing, which is set to continue today in City Hall, Bradford.

The developers’ barrister Andrew Williamson told the inquiry he would prove that the planning benefits would “outweigh any harms” identified by objectors. He said the developers would keep “the existing landscape, form and character” of the area “at the heart of the scheme’s design”.

Mr Smyth hit out claims that up to 440 homes would not cause “material harm” to the greenfield area next to the canal. He said: “This is probably the most incredible submission I have ever heard at a planning inquiry.”

Martin Carter, representing the Council, said the planned emergency access from Oakwood Drive, was “inadequate” and put highway safety at risk.

A replacement swing bridge as the main route to the estate would be inadequate and impractical, he said.

e-mail: marc.meneaud@telegraphandargus.co.uk