PLANS to build 39 homes off Burnside Crescent in Skipton – on a field currently used to graze animals – presented members of Craven District Council's planning committee with a very difficult decision.

Councillors were up against a number of residents, all opposed to the plans and with what they considered sound, obvious and reasonable reasons for the scheme to be refused.

But even though many councillors shared their concerns, particularly about the build-up of traffic in Carleton Road, they were left in no doubt of the opinion of the professional officers: that refusal of the application would leave the council in a very difficult situation.

Residents and the ward councillor argued on the grounds of highways congestion and concerns regarding flooding, but the highways authority had raised no objections, and neither had the Environment Agency.

Without the objections of the two authorities – whose job it is to rule on any potential problems in those areas – Craven District Council would be left high and dry if the developer chose to fight the refusal and refer the matter to the Planning Inspectorate.

Craven could have decided to forge ahead, seek its own professional opinion from traffic and flooding experts and fight an appeal, but that would have involved an additional cost. And that would be on top of what the developer could apply for – and very likely – be awarded.

Which, of course, left councillors this week between a rock and a hard place. Most of them agreed with the residents, and many wanted to refuse the scheme, but faced with the tough advice from their professional planning officers, the likely awarding of costs against the council was something they were not prepared to bet on.

It really was an extremely difficult decision, which did not go down at all well with residents.