A BARRISTERS decision that work on Hellifield flashes does not go against planning permission already granted is being challenged by a ward councillor.

Cllr Chris Moorby said he was going to raise issues that concern him during a 'special planning committee' meeting on October 26 where he hopes to receive answers from the independent legal adviser.

The meeting is being called following the publishing of the barristers report recently which upheld work being carried out on the site known locally as Gallaber pond.

Excavation work began in May last year on the site.

Permission to develop a complex including a hotel and rural regeneration centre was granted, first as an outline application in 2003 and the reserved matters 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 but a legal adviser after scrutinising the plans said any hope of legal action was ‘vanishingly small’.

A public meeting held in Hellifield last year and attended by Craven District Council chief executive Paul Shevlin promised residents that a barrister would be appointed to look at the planning consents awarded in 2003 and 2005.

Since work began, Craven District Council planning officers have maintained that work was being carried out in accordance with permission.

Barrister Harriet Townsend, who was unable to visit the site because of lockdown, reviewed documents spanning more than 20 years and concluded: “The view taken by the Council (that as yet there is no breach of planning control to enforce against) appears to me to be lawful.”

She did state, however, that a ‘procedural error’ by the council led to the outline approval in 2003.

Cllr Moorby, ward councillor for Hellifield and Long Preston, said he intended to keep on fighting on behalf of the residents. He said: "I appreciate all the work that has been carried out by the barrister and also the work put in by the officers and employees at the council. Including attendance at the public meetings that were held in Hellifield.

"I stand behind all the members of the public both in Hellifield and from other areas that have worked very hard to preserve the area which is important to them especially in trying to preserve the wildlife that had, but not now, was their habitat at Gallaber Flash.

"I am commenting on the planning concerning the Flashes, but of course this is only part of the “Hellifield Regeneration Scheme” which involves Waterside Lane, alias The Road to Nowhere, and the Station of which I still have great concerns.

"I think one of the main issues is the retention of the Flash and saving the wildlife, of which the public have had a big part to play in this, but I do feel very strongly that we have all been let down terribly by the agencies that are in place to protect the environment. In this day and age we are all concerned about preserving wildlife worldwide but when it lands at our door the agencies did nothing.

"I feel that errors were made regarding the plans that were passed in 2005. The (planning) committee passed these on condition that it retains the wetland area as opposed to the creation of a lake.

"On September 20 there was a notice of reserved matters issued by Craven District Council in which it states 'the development hereby permitted shall be strictly in accordance with the approved plans' (in which it gives quite a few) but I feel the one that is relevant in this case is number GP25/011B. The reason given: To ensure a satisfactory standard of development and for the avoidance of doubt. Yet in August 2007 a plan was introduced for the Hotel as required in reserved matters which also showed the remodelling of the Flash and was passed by officer delegation and consequently created a lake going totally against the Committee decision passed in July 2005.

"Also the revised plan was introduced just before the planning permission was due to expire.

"All the plans are in the public domain for anyone to see.

"Even though my ideas appear to go against the barrister's decision I will not give up and will raise this point in the consultation period."