A LEGAL statement on whether a development on a wildlife sanctuary in Hellifield has been carried out within the boundaries of the agreed planning permission is due to be made within the next few weeks.

Excavation work began in May last year on the site at the village’s main flash, known locally as Gallaber pond.

Permission to develop a complex including a hotel and rural regeneration centre was granted in 2005.

But work only began after a subsequent application for a larger complex to the south of the site was refused last year.

Locals have expressed dismay claiming unauthorised work to the flash has permanently damaged the breeding and feeding grounds for birds.

Following an outcry resulting in the chief executive of Craven District Council, Paul Shevlin, attending a public meeting in September, he agreed a ‘thorough review was needed and was to have a barrister look at the planning and related files.

A spokesman said: “We continue to monitor the Hellifield Flashes site, and respond to complaints relating to this site.

“We have been seeking external legal advice to examine the whole case fully, and we expect to receive this within the next month. We will also, as you would expect, need time to review the advice. We are also investigating allegations that unauthorised works are taking place on an adjoining site.”

Long Preston and Hellifield ward councillor, Cllr Chris Moorby said he welcomed the news a report was due.

He said: “I am pleased to hear that we will get the barrister’s comments back in the near future and I hope his advice will help the people of Hellifield and Long Preston know where they stand on the issue of the Flashes and indeed the whole of the Hellifield Regeneration Scheme.

I sent the barrister a letter itemising my concerns and I trust he will give these thoughts due consideration.

“I was told in a telephone conversation from the developer in July that all the groundworks would be complete by the end of September, but this doesn’t appear to be the case as the works look like a bomb site.

The lake that has been created has driven a great many of the birds away including birds that are on the red list. So much for nature conservation!

“I have also found out that there is permission to dump 41,800 tonnes of spoil at this site. I continue to have walks round the site with my dogs and see what is going on and I see and meet people who visit the site by car from Skipton and surrounding areas and ask me how on earth can this be allowed in this day and age? All I can say is that I don’t know.”