COUNCILLORS have voted in favour of building 500 homes on green belt land in Burley-in Wharfedale following the outcome of a referendum into a neighbourhood plan for the village.
A decision on the controversial outline plans, which also include the land and infrastructure for a primary school, was deferred in January to await the outcome of Burley Parish Council’s development plan.
At yesterday’s meeting of Bradford Council’s regulatory and appeals committee, it emerged that 82 per cent of people had voted for the neighbourhood plan at the polls just under two weeks ago.Despite objections from more than 200 village residents and all three ward councillors, the scheme by housing developer CEG for the greenfield site in Sun Lane,was approved by four votes to two.
The panel was told this site was instrumental if a target of 700 new homes in Burley-in-Wharfedale, which is included in the core strategy of the Council’s Local Plan, were to be reached.
The CEG scheme also includes nearly £1 million of local highways and transport improvements, as well as reserving part of the site to enable a one or two-form entry primary school to be built as demand for places increases.
Concerns were raised by some members of the committee over whether the very special circumstances that are required to allow development in the green belt had been met in this case – particularly over the issue of the school.
Councillor Jack Richard (Con, Craven) argued that this would see the Council essentially “give away prime green belt land” for a developer to build 500 homes and “land for a school but with no school to go on it”.
He added: “I have significant doubts about whether this is setting the right kind of bar when it comes to giving away the green belt.”
Steve McBurney, from CEG, told the panel: “We will reserve the land for ten years and transfer it to the Council for £1. This may be the only opportunity for a new school in Burley.”
He added: “The school is only one of many strands of the very special circumstances case here.”
“Very special circumstances exist on this site in this particular instance. The very special circumstances are unique to this site and this site only.”
Chairman of the committee, Councillor David Warburton (Lab, Wyke), proposed the recommendation from planning officers that the scheme be approved, and added: “Somewhere in Burley there has to be 700 new homes, and looking at the area I can’t see any other place that could accommodate this amount of houses.”
The matter must now go to the secretary of state for a final decision over the plans.