Yorkshire Water is to be invited to a planning meeting to explain why it needs to build a pumping station on a greenfield site next to the national park.

The company is seeking planning permission for a single-storey pumping station, with ancillary car parking, on agricultural land opposite St Mary’s Church on Kirk Lane, Eastby.

It says a new pumping station is required to secure water supplies to Embsay Reservoir, which feeds 25,000 properties across Craven.

And it warns that, without the new facility, properties could go without water in a drought or if there was a mains burst.

“The situation is made more critical with Embsay Reservoir due to be lowered for overflow compliance works in spring 2010, therefore reducing the storage capabilities of the reservoir,” says the company’s design and assess statement.

It adds that the proposed site was chosen because it was on the existing pipeline between Nidd Viaduct and Embsay Reservoir.

But its proposals have failed to win favour in the village. The parish council says the site is inappropriate as it is directly opposite St Mary’s Church, “a local landmark of architectural pride and interest”.

There is also opposition from the parochial church council, which is concerned the development would obstruct views across to Embsay Crag and suggests the pumping station should be underground to avoid detriment to the Dales landscape.

The Craven branch of the Campaign to Protect Rural England says green belt should not be developed, especially in Embsay “which has other pressures upon it already”.

Another objection from the Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority says the pumping station would “be overly visible and have an urbanising affect on the landscape”.

The proposal has also attracted eight individual representations from people worried about “urban sprawl”, the loss of environmental habitat, the loss of views and possible flooding.

Officers at Craven District Council have recommended the application should be approved, but members of the planning committee have decided they want a representative from Yorkshire Water to attend their next meeting to explain why it has chosen the site and whether the pumping station could be put underground.

In a report, officers say: “On balance it is acknowledged that the development will have an impact on the character of the landscape. However, subject to the use of appropriate materials, boundary treatments and landscaping, this impact is not considered to be sufficiently detrimental to justify refusal of the application.

“The applicant has stated that in order for the service provision of clean water to the growing population of the Craven area to be maintained, the development is absolutely necessary.”