PLANS to build 'entry level' affordable homes by Craven District Council on land it owns in Hellifield been deferred for a site visit.

Some members of the council's planning committee raised concerns about determining an application submitted by the authority itself with one suggesting it ought to be put in the hands of a government planning inspector.

A proposal to go against officer recommendation and reject the scheme for 13 one, two and three bed homes on Station Road was narrowly lost following the casting vote of the committee chair Linda Brockbank.

During the more than hour long debate, councillors were told while the site was not allocated in the local plan for housing, relatively new 'entry level schemes - a first for the council - were supported by the Government and were a way of helping people get onto the housing ladder.

The meeting heard there are currently 250 people on the council waiting list for housing.

The committee heard strong objections from Hellifield Parish Council, and ward councillor Chris Moorby.

There had also been 46 letters of objection and a further two that had missed the deadline - although it was explained they had not raised any new issues.

Concerns were raised about more traffic on the unadopted road, which leads to Hellifield Rail Station, the safety of children using the playground near to the proposed site, and the village already having its quota of new homes.

There was also concern by objectors and by some members of the committee about the district council giving itself planning permission - although legal advice was that it was permitted.

Nevertheless, Councillor Richard Pringle moved refusal of the application commenting that it would be better if it was determined by a Government planning inspector who would have a better understanding of entry level sites.

He said: "I think the ward member and the parish council are right, we should not be determining our own application.

"If this goes to appeal the inspector will firstly visit the site and he will make an informed decision whether this fits in with our policies.

"Let's give the decision to a man who understands planning better than we do."

Cllr Robert Heseltine said it was a sensitive site and the council should be seen to be giving the application the best possible scrutiny.

Cllr Alan Sutcliffe said the bottom line was that the council was trying to give itself planning consent.

It was important, he added, that the application be considered in the same way as if it had come from a private developer.

Planning manager Neville Watson told members the council could not appeal against its own decision and instead advised withdrawal of the application and he would return to strategic housing.

Cllr Carl Lis, while agreeing with a site visit, reminded members there was a need for affordable housing and the best way to provide such schemes was on council sites.

Cllr Chris Rose said she too also wanted to approve the building of affordable homes, but would like to see the site first.