ONE has to sympathise with the beleaguered members of Craven District Council's planning committee, not to mention their professional officers.

Earlier this month, there was an application for houses on "poor quality" land outside the built-up limits of Hellifield. The officers, constrained as they are by ever-changing national planning guidance, had no choice to recommend approval - even though Craven has reached its five-year target for new housing sites and there was passionate opposition from residents and the parish council.

Councillors in the end swung to the side of residents, who included a retired planning inspector, and chose to refuse the plan and risk the possible consequences of the developers going to appeal and winning costs against the council.

However, the Hellifield application, for around 20 houses, is small fry compared to what is coming up in Skipton. Outline plans for around 80 new homes, again on farmland, has been submitted for a triangular piece of land on the edge of Skipton. The application is accompanied by a tick box to demonstrate just how the proposal fulfils every piece of national planning guidance and therefore must be approved.

On top of the proposals for the land off The Bailey, there is the even larger-scale development proposed at Wyvern Park - on land between Waltonwrays Cemetery and Sandylands Sports Centre.

Developers Henry Boot, knocked back with its original plan for a business park and supermarket, returned with an application for 225 houses instead of the supermarket. The controversial application, submitted back in the early summer, is due before planners, possibly at next month's meeting.

There is no doubt the business element of the scheme has a great deal of support and we wait with interest to see what the officers recommend and whether councillors back the application or choose, as they have said before, to be the voice of their residents.