A WHARFEDALE councillor has attended a preliminary meeting with a planning inspector who will hear an inquiry into the building of 500 homes in Burley-in-Wharfedale.

The meeting with the planning inspector David Wildsmith was held to set out the arrangements for the inquiry into the application to build on greenbelt land off Sun Lane.

Councillor Jackie Whiteley (Con, Wharfedale) stressed at the meeting that of key interest to residents is where the inquiry is to be held. Residents, backed by Cllr Whiteley and local MP Philip Davies, believe it should be held in Queens Hall, Burley-in-Wharfedale, to enable as many interested parties as possible to attend. However, Bradford Council, whose decision it is have indicated it will be held in City Hall, Bradford.

Cllr Whiteley said: “Mr Wildsmith acknowledged that he had received a request from Philip Davies MP and other residents but stressed it was a decision to be taken by Bradford Council. Bradford’s barrister said that although the Queens Hall was suitable, they had serious concerns about the quality of break out rooms and the fact that the Queens Hall was due to undertake renovations which only finish ten days before the enquiry starts and this made it’s use uncertain. I stressed that Menston Kirkland’s Community Centre, which had been used for a previous enquiry, had also been offered free of charge in the event building work wasn’t completed even though Burley Parish Council are confident work will have been finished.”

Cllr Whiteley said it was resolved to start the inquiry on Tuesday, May 14 at 10am in the Saville Room at City Hall, Bradford, with Friday, May 17 taking place at the Queens Hall. It is scheduled the last eight days.

Cllr Whiteley said: “I believe this seriously affects the chances of people being able to follow the progress of the inspection as it will start in Bradford on Tuesday at 10am till approximately 4pm with an hour for lunch, however, the inspector suggested a compromise so that the Friday session will take place in the Queens Hall in Burley from 10am till 3.30pm with an hour for lunch.

“All ‘interested persons’ will have the opportunity to speak then. The Inspector stressed that he will not hear people repeating what has already been said by other speakers and suggested that people may like to work together on this. I agreed to make this known, however, I stressed that as we don’t have any legal representation I don’t know who wishes to speak. Bradford Council said they will write to everyone who has communicated with them. CEG’s barrister said that they intend to create a website with all documentation on it and Bradford’s barrister said there would be a link to this via Bradford’s website.

“It must be noted that individuals are also able to ask questions of the witnesses and others who speak in support of the application. The eight key witnesses for CEG will be relate to: planning law, highways, ecology, highways, education, landscape, flooding and drainage and design. The Council’s witnesses will be a policy planner and on planning development.

“So to be clear, the Friday session will include people who want to challenge the development and the earlier witnesses are unlikely to be present so it is important for residents to try to attend the all sessions to hear what is said and to question what is said if they wish to.

“All would-be speakers are encouraged to tell the Council in advance of their intention to speak and where possible to deposit any evidence or papers in support with their arguments with the Council by April 23 so that all parties can consider them.

“Although this would be preferred it is only guidance and late submissions will not be precluded and indeed people can identify themselves as speakers on the first day of the inspection. People should be aware that both barristers and the inspector can question anyone who speaks.”

Cllr Whiteley added: “The formal notes of this session will be sent to all who attended, me included and will be placed on Bradford Council’s website. Hard copy documents of all papers to be discussed in the proceedings are to be placed in Burley in Wharfdale Library after they appear on the linked website.”

* Cllr Gerry Barker (Con, Wharfedale) has received a petition signed by 150 residents requesting the inquiry be held in full locally and there is an online petition - http://www.lbfl.uk/ - calling for the inquiry to be held in Burley. It requires 500 signatures to ensure it is discussed at a full meeting of Bradford Council.