A NEW staff car park at Airedale Hospital will help reduce "indiscriminate parking" at the busy site, a meeting has been told.

Members of Bradford Council's Keighley and Shipley Area Planning Panel approved plans to create a new 314-space car park at the Steeton hospital.

The car park will be used for hospital staff, and will be built on the former site of staff housing to the north of the hospital grounds.

The panel was told that the car park would help reduce the parking problems at the hospital, that regularly see staff and visitors have to park indiscriminately on grass verges or double yellow lines, or park on residential roads in Steeton.

Hospital bosses said that by creating a large dedicated staff car park, more spaces in the regular car park would be freed up for patients and visitors.

Steeton with Eastburn Parish Council had objected to the plan, saying it would cause traffic and parking issues in the village.

Parish council chairman Cllr David Mullen said he wanted the plans blocked until a residents' parking scheme could be introduced in Steeton. He said Airedale Hospital should pay for the scheme as a condition of the car park plans. He added: "We are getting sick of the indiscriminate parking caused by staff at the hospital."

Planning officer Martyn Burke pointed out that the car park was being built to serve an existing need, and the number of staff or patients visiting the hospital would not be increasing. He added that the council would have no authority to ask for the hospital to pay for residents' car parking for an application like this that would not increase parking demand on the site.

He showed members photos he took on a recent visit to the site. They included one image of cars parked on a grass verge and another of a row of cars parked on double yellow lines on a road leading into the hospital.

David Moss, assistant director of estates and facilities at Airedale NHS Foundation Trust, told the meeting of the need for extra parking spaces. He said: "Hospitals around the country are getting busier because of increasing life expectancy. This is especially true in Airedale due to the local demographics.

"It is essential that our staff and patients can park in a safe way to make sure they get to work or their appointments on time. The stress of attending a hospital appointment should not be amplified by not being able to park. Similarly the stresses our staff face shouldn't be exacerbated by not being able to park at their own work.

"The parish council has objected on the issue of traffic and road safety, but the biggest risk to safety is people not being able to find a parking space, which could lead them to parking on grass verges or double yellow lines. Without this car park the parking problem will merely move to residents' streets or further afield."

Councillor Doreen Lee, chairman of the panel, said she would prefer the parking to be free, but admitted that issue was not in the panel's remit. She said: "I abhor the idea of hospitals charging an exorbitant amount of money for parking. But this is a Government matter and not one for this panel."

The panel then approved the application.