A NEW, replacement council waste depot in Engine Shed Lane, Skipton, plus two sets of smaller industrial units have been given the go-ahead - despite concerns it will bring more traffic onto the junction with Carleton New Road.

The virtual planning committee meeting of Craven District Council heard some members claim there was a marked difference between professional highways opinion and the 'common sense' view that believed there would be an increase of traffic on what was considered a 'grossly substandard access'.

But councillors were repeatedly told by both their planning manager and their solicitor that a refusal of the scheme on highways grounds would be unlikely to win on appeal because it was deemed acceptable by the highways authority.

The council is also planning a separate scheme to upgrade Engine Shed Lane and build a new access road from Ings Lane to the bypass.

Some at the meeting also expressed concern that it felt like they were being pressured to approve the scheme - a joint Craven District Council and Barnfield Construction Ltd application - because time was running out for grant funding.

Cllr Richard Pringle (Ind, West Craven) said he did not want his name associated with approval of the scheme, said he would not vote on the application and that he would refer himself to the council's standards committee, after being warned by the solicitor of some of his comments.

He had earlier said he had already asked for the application to be called in by the secretary of state for determination - which has not succeeded - and accused two of his colleagues of being content to move approval when in his opinion they could not have seen an additional highways report.

Planning solicitor Alex Strickland reminded Cllr Pringle to be careful of what he said and that councillors were bound by a code of conduct.

Six members of the committee voted to approve the application, and four abstained. None voted against, and Cllr Pringle did not vote at all.

The approved scheme will see the demolition of the existing council waste depot in Engine Shed Lane and its replacement with a new building. There will also be two sets of six smaller units.

Planning manager, Neville Watson, said the current buildings were becoming 'tired' and would be replaced with typical modern industrial units, similar in scale and design to others on Engine Shed Lane.

Vic Craven, speaking for the council's development partner, Barnfield Construction, said it was 'critically important' that the application was approved that day because available grants to enable the work were 'near to expiry'.

Funding was only possible because of the jobs created by the new industrial units and the 'simple fact' he said was that 'one could not be built without the other'.

"The council depot is unfit for purpose and beyond economic repair; the time for doing this is closing," he said, adding that the replacement depot would mean safe working conditions for council employees.

But, Cllr Chris Rose (Lab, Skipton West) said it was unhelpful to describe the application as being time specific and she did not like the idea of being put under pressure.

Cllr Rose, who abstained from the vote, said she had concerns about flooding and additional traffic exiting Engine Shed Lane onto Carleton New Road, disputing officer advice that there would actually be a decrease in traffic using the junction.

"This is a junction which is extremely dangerous and I am not at all happy about any increase of traffic. I am not convinced there will be a decrease, I think there will be an increase."

Cllr Andy Brown (Green, Aire Valley with Lothersdale), said he had initially been enthusiastic about the scheme, believing it to be a sustainable development, but was concerned about the access onto Carleton New Road.

He wanted reassurance about the building of the new road onto the bypass and said common sense suggested there would be problems with the access, even if the professionals said not.

Cllr Brown said he could not listen to both common sense and professional advice, and would also abstain from the vote.

Cllr Stephen Morrell (Ind, Sutton), said he was also struggling with some aspects of the application and described a highways interpretation of predicted vehicle movements at the Engine Shed Lane junction as 'utterly ludicrous'.

And Cllr Brian Shuttleworth (Ind, Embsay with Eastby), said: "Common sense would tell me this will be an intensification of use of this grossly substandard access from Engine Shed Lane to Carleton New Road."

But Cllr Richard Welch (Con, Penyghent) said as a former HGV driver with 40 years experience, he could see no issue with the junction, pointed out there was no objection from the highways authority and moved officers recommendation to approve the scheme.

Cllr Carl Lis (Con, Ingleton and Clapham) said he had read and understood the highways report on the application and felt able to support the scheme.

"I am familiar with the junction, and yes, it is not perfect, but I am happy to go with the recommendation of the professionals, " he said.

Mr Watson advised the committee that the issue of funding was irrelevant, but that the application was ready to be decided.

He pointed out that it had been deferred at the end of March for additional information and that had now been provided.

"We have now reached a point where this application is capable of being determined and I cannot see any other reason why it should not be determined today," he said.

He also warned members about the use of 'common sense' over reports compiled by professional highways engineers.

"If you end up attempting to refuse this application and it goes to appeal, how on earth are you going to say, well, that is professional advice, but by the way Mr Inspector, this is the common sense approach; it just won't stack up."

And, Mr Strickland added: "We need to very, very careful if the committee is minded to turn down this application on highways grounds, the professional advice is very clear and the council would be in a very difficult position to try and defend that on appeal in the light of professional advice."

After the meeting, Paul Ellis, Craven District Council’s director of services, said: “I’m delighted that this project has been approved. The current buildings on this site are old and dilapidated and the new scheme will provide a much improved base for our waste management team, along with much-needed modern employment space for local businesses.

“I’m particularly pleased that we have been able to include environmentally-friendly features such as solar panels and electric charging points within the scheme, setting a great example for others.”

The scheme to develop new business units on the depot site forms part of the Skipton Employment and Housing Growth project and is funded in part by Growth Deal Funding allocated by the York North Yorkshire and East Riding Local Enterprise Partnership (YNYER).

While construction takes place, the council’s waste management team will be temporarily relocated.

Craven District Council is also developing a separate scheme to upgrade Engine Shed Lane and Ings Lane, connecting Ings Lane to the bypass, as part of the wider Skipton Employment and Housing Growth project.