AROUND 60 people defied the rain to take part in a protest walk along Waterside Lane, in Hellifield, despite the developer claiming the road was private with no Right of Way.

Hellifield residents have been increasingly upset about development taking place at the main ‘flash’ near the entrance to Waterside Lane, off the A65, west of the village.

Detailed planning permission was passed for an environment centre, hotel and car park in 2005 and work commenced in May after a separate, larger application for a leisure centre and 300 lodges, south of the site, was refused in late spring.

At a recent public meeting, residents said they experienced ‘bullying’ by contractors working on site when they attempted to walk along what locals call the ‘road to nowhere’, despite claiming it being built with public money in 1996 with the intention of linking the A65 with the railway station, though the final part was never completed.

Residents said they had been walking the route regularly for more than 20 years and were gathering evidence statements from people to put forward a case to have the road made an official Right of Way and have raised the issue with North Yorkshire County Council.

Craven District Councillor Andy Brown, a member of the Green Party, was among the walkers on Saturday.

He said the piece of land being excavated was a ‘valuable local area for wildlife and nesting and migrating birds’ and was distressed to see extensive development taking part.

He said: “That so many people came along on such a wet day is very pleasing.

“The contrast between the last time I came here six months ago when there were birds, and today when there are bulldozers, is extremely worrying.”

Villager Angie Pedley who is gathering together evidence statements of people who have walked the route of added:”It’s been a good turnout. The developer called the police who have been here to make sure there is no hassle. It’s been fine and the security men were very nice too and didn’t try to stop us.

"We are going to carry on using the road because we always have.”

Chris Sharpe, a founder member of Save Our Craven Countryside said many people felt the development work being carried out was ‘excessive’ despite reports from Craven District Council that checks made by the planning department deemed the developers to be following the agreed plans.

She said of the development site: “We want to make people aware of what is going on here. There is so much destruction to the natural habitat of the birds that they’ve gone. All that’s left is a eerie silence. “The plans have changed so much since the original application. Amendments have been made that no one knows about. It is so tangled and it is taking a lot to pick through it all.”

Residents have made increasing demands to speak to members of the planning department to explain what measures they have taken to ensure the development is being carried out according to plans. A second public meeting has now been organised and will take place in Hellifield Institute on September 18 at 7pm.

Present will be CDC chief executive Paul Shevlin, and David Smurthwaite, strategic manager, planning and regeneration.