THE PUBLIC are being sold a lie by developers keen to “gobble up” protected green belt land surrounding Keighley and Ilkley, claims a countryside charity.

The Campaign to Protect Rural England has rapped Bradford Council after publishing a report into the development of green belt.

The CPRE says its research shows that new homes in the green belt will be unaffordable to those most in need of them, and claims plans to build thousands of homes on Bradford’s green belt will do nothing to help ease the affordable housing crisis.

The CPRE’s comments have been echoed by district councillor Adrian Naylor, a long-time critic of the massive scale of housing development on sites in areas of his Craven ward.

He said many of the hundreds of homes being built in villages like Steeton, Eastburn, Silsden and Addingham can only be afforded by people who commute to work in nearby towns and cities.

He said: “It’s leaving a generation of people who were brought up in an area and are being priced out of the villages where they lived for years.”

In Bradford district, CPRE has identified plans to build 11,000 homes on green belt land as part of the wider Yorkshire Green Belt, across which 46,210 homes are expected to be built.

However, the campaigners say that there are enough brownfield sites in Bradford to build a minimum of 11,465 homes and at least 6,537 of these brownfield homes could be built within the next five years.

Agreeing with CPRE, Shipley MP Philip Davies said: “Building on the green belt in places like Wharfedale damages our local environment and does nothing to alleviate the housing need which is primarily in the city centre.”

Cllr Naylor, who is also a Silsden town councillor, said there were several reasons why affordable housing was not being built in villages, mostly financial.

Adrian Naylor said developers claimed that due to tight profit margins they could not afford both to build affordable houses and to pay Section 106 money for community improvements.

He added: “A certain number of houses on each site are usually discounted so they are affordable – say 30 per cent. But if it’s 30 per cent £300,000 it isn’t really affordable to people in the area.”

Cllr Naylor said that in many cases, instead of building houses with a discount on their own estate, developers gave a similar sum of money to Bradford Council.

He added: “This money is then spent somewhere else where they might get 15 houses instead of 10 because it’s cheaper to build in those areas. Estates are being built in Keighley with money from elsewhere.”

Developers can instead give the money to housing associations to subsidise the building of social housing in villages, but these organisations cannot afford such rural projects due to a complex mix of high land costs, bank borrowing rules, and a cap on how much rent they can charge.

Cllr Alex Ross-Shaw, the council’s executive member for regeneration, planning and transport, said “sustainable building” was needed to support a growing economy and youngest population in the UK.

He said: “There is no target for how many houses should be built on green belt. Our local plan prioritises brownfield development and was drawn up within strict Government guidelines and it was approved by the government’s own inspector.

“Unlocking brownfield sites is a big challenge. This is an issue not just in Bradford but across the North where low land values can make redevelopment of brownfield sites unviable.”

Even if all brownfield sites in Bradford were built on, it would not meet numbers agreed with Government, he added.