RESIDENTS who fought to keep developers off a natural wetland area have voiced their dismay after excavation work commended on a large development to the north of the site.

Earlier this year campaigners were jubilant when plans for a hotel and holiday park with lodges on an area known as 'the flashes', north of the village of Hellifield, were refused.

But this has now turned to dismay after the developer has started work on a former plan at the top end of the area of wetland which gained permission in September 2005

This plan for a rural environment centre comprising tourism, exhibition, training, equestrian and livestock buildings, over 51 hectares of land, and incorporating a hotel and car park near the junction of Waterside Lane and the A65.

Following permission, a road was put in and a manager's house built, but then work stopped until recently.

A spokesman for the developer said: "By virtue of a letter dated February 7, 2008, signed by Iain Swain the then Head of Development Control at Craven District Council, it was confirmed on behalf of the council that the development had started.

"That had the effect of making the permission extant which means that it could be implemented at any future time.

"The developer is now continuing the approved work that was started on February 7, 2008."

The developer also stated: "Allegations that there are great crested newts within the working area are unfounded, and a copy of the ecologists report which contains that finding has been made available to the police.

"A recent site visit by the Council’s enforcement officer confirmed that all was in order. Likewise confirmation has been given by the Environment Agency to the same effect."

On Facebook, photographs of the work being carried out have been posted, along with concerns for the wildlife in the area and the boggy area around the main flash known as Gallaber Pond.

Others have reported drystone walls being taken down.

Ward Councillor Chris Moorby said while he was disappointed to see development going ahead on the land, the developer did have permission.

He said: "Work has started on the car park and the hotel at the flashes. A great many people thought that as

the plans for the proposed holiday park have been refused, then the area of the flashes were saved

from development but this is not the case.

"Plans for development of 51 hectares of land for various buildings and car parks were approved on September 20, 2005.

"If the works are done to the conditions regarding the application then nothing can be done to stop

the development. I am aware that it would appear that waste material was brought onto the site of

the car park and the Environment Agency have this under investigation.

"The Environment Agency have visited the site and are happy with the straw bales placed around the


"Although I do not like to see green space developed we have to accept that planning approval was

given and have to abide by the decision.

"If anyone has anything to report regarding danger to wildlife then it should be reported to the police,

Natural England, the Environment Agency or any other relevant body.

"Waterside Lane, although financed with public money, is still private property, and I know people

are angry about this situation, but it is still private as is the area where the development is taking

place, therefore I ask that people respect this."

An Environment Agency spokesman said: "Our officers are investigating reports of the use of improper waste materials. We have instructed the company to temporarily cease import of the materials while the investigation concludes.”

A council spokesman said: “It appears that the land owners are now implementing a planning permission which was originally granted for construction of ‘Hellifield Rural Environmental Centre. The developers did meet all pre-commencement conditions for this scheme and a lawful start to the work was made to secure the permissions.”

“A condition of the planning permission includes a requirement for a temporary settlement facility to remove suspended solids from surface water run-off during construction works. The approved facility consists of straw bales to prevent suspended solids from entering the flash and Kell Well Beck.”

The Council will continue to monitor the site but at present the developers appear to be carrying out works in accordance with the approved planning permission.”