COUNCILLORS have given their backing to Burley-in-Wharfedale residents who are demanding a planning inquiry into the building of 500 homes on green-belt land at Sun Lane is held in the village.

A petition with 1,800 signatures was presented at a full meeting of Bradford Council on Tuesday by local resident Bob Felstead, supported by Chris Turner, Vicky Gordon and Richard Scargill.

The petition asked for the full inquiry to be held in Burley-in-Wharfedale at the Queens Hall, or as a back-up at Kirkland’s Community Centre in Menston. Both parish councils have offered the venues free of charge.

The council had decided that all but one day of the inquiry, which begins on May 14 for up to eight days, should be held in City Hall in Bradford and one day in Burley-in-Wharfedale.

As over 1,500 signatures had been achieved a debate was triggered. Cllr Alex Ross- Shaw, the portfolio holder responsible for planning and transport spoke of the reasoning behind council officers’ decision to hold the inquiry in Bradford. The need for adequate Wifi and photocopying facilities were mentioned.

Mr Felstead stressed the inconvenience of travel to village residents and Cllr Gerry Barker (Con, Wharfedale) said the signatures represented 25 per cent of the population of the village. Cllr Jackie Whiteley (Con, Wharfedale) stressed the availability of suitable local venues.

She said: “I asked for the council to reconsider the decision and Mike Ellis, the Conservative groups’ Chief Whip, said that ‘after receiving legal advice I move that the strategic director of place arrange a venue in the locality and should bear in mind that it is the local planning authority (Bradford Council) that arranges the venue not the planning inspector’. The Labour group’s chief whip agreed and we all voted for this to happen. This is a great example of local democracy in action and I hope that council officers will soon announce that the full inquiry will be held in Burley.”

Coun Alex Ross-Shaw, Portfolio Holder for Regeneration, Planning and Transport, said: “During a debate at the Full Council meeting yesterday, we made it clear we have always supported the principle of holding planning inspections as close to the local community as is practical.

“However, sometimes this is not possible. A modern inspection of this scale lasting eight days requires Wi-Fi, printing and copying equipment and additional meeting rooms.

“After discussions with the inspector, it was agreed a session would be held in Burley-in-Wharfedale. However, this will be subject to the completion of the refurbishment works at Queens Hall.

“Councillors have agreed to ask officers to look at the issue again in light of the petition.

“We would like to thank Queens Hall and the Kirklands Community Centre in Menston for offering their venues free of charge.”

* In 2018 developers received planning permission to build 500 homes on the green belt in Burley-in-Wharfedale. Philip Davies MP asked the Secretary of State to call in the decision which he did. An independent planning inspector will conduct the inquiry to consider whether there are special circumstances which warrant building on the green belt.