Craven District Council appears to be preparing an about-turn in its decision to refuse a controversial housing development on a huge swathe of greenfield land.

Planners are expected to back-track on their pledge, made at a mass meeting in Cross Hills in July, to fight the building of 74 homes off Green Lane, Glusburn.

The Craven Herald understand that, following a secret meeting at the council offices in Granville Street, in which the legal implications were thrashed out, it was decided not to contest the appeal.

The Muir Group Housing Association, which submitted the plan, has since drawn up another similar scheme for the land.

It is expected to be determined – again at a special planning meeting in Cross Hills – in the week beginning October 20.

This latest episode has sparked anger and disappointment from councillors who are demanding a “full and frank” explanation to the public.

Glusburn ward councillor Philip Barrett, who has been at the forefront of the opposition, said: “It’s clearly in the public interest that the objectors are given a full and frank explanation for this U-turn.”

He was not in a position to reveal the legal details himself but said he had received assurances in front of 200 people at the July meeting that the reasons for refusal were robust.

“The objectors left the planning meeting with the comfort and confidence that an appeal, if lodged, would be strongly fought by the planning authority,” he said.

“Clearly, the public’s confidence has now been shattered. This has been borne out by the numerous objectors over the last few days who have approached me for advice on the current application when I have had to break the news that the appeal will not now be contested.”

But he said the fight was not over and he urged opponents to submit objections to the latest plan for the site. He had asked for the decision meeting to be held again in South Craven and hoped that applicants would be present along with Yorkshire Water to witness the strong public opposition.

Fellow ward councillor Graham Beck said he understood the council had now decided not to contest the appeal. “We need an explanation and the people of Glusburn should be told why not,” he said.

Pam Brown, a resident of Green Lane, said she would be “horrified” to learn that the council had back-tracked on its promise to contest the appeal.

“I would be very angry and somewhat mystified. There was a unanimous vote from the committee at that meeting in July. There was not one voice for the development,” she said.

A Muir Group spokesman said the appeal had been set for December 16 and a revised plan for the site had been resubmitted.

He said legal advice was that the council had not calculated the housing numbers in accordance with Government guidance.

A Craven Council spokesman was unable to say whether details of the meeting held behind closed doors would be made public. It was held in private as legal issues were being discussed in line with the Local Government Act 1972.