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Council claims statistics on greenfield sites are wrong

Council chiefs are disputing Government statistics which show almost half of new home building in the district takes place on greenfield sites.

Official figures show that between 2001 and 2004 the district's land recycling rate - building on previously-developed sites - was 52 per cent against a national target of at least 60 per cent.

But Bradford Council disputes the findings as it says the statistics do not include mill conversions, several of which have taken place in the Keighley area.

Councillor Anne Hawkesworth, the council's executive member for the environment, said: "We dispute these figures as 85 per cent of new housing in the district has been on brownfield sites in the last year. It was 78 per cent in 2003/4 and 79 per cent in 2004/5.

"We have greatly exceeded the 57 per cent target laid down for us.

"We monitor the figures annually and submit them to the Government."

Countryside campaigner, the Campaign to Protect Rural England, has pointed the finger at those councils with the worst record in losing greenfield land.

Out of 354 authorities Bradford was placed in the bottom half of the table, ranked 235.

CPRE is campaigning to prevent changes in Government planning guidance that would weaken the current brownfield-first approach.

The group is concerned that despite the strong progress overall, the figures show some councils are still performing weakly.

The announcement comes after MPs from across the district signed a motion demanding changes to the Government policy aimed at boosting house-building.

They fear the countryside will become overrun and are calling for changes to the draft housing policy. Shipley MP Philip Davies - whose constituency includes Cullingworth and Denholme - and Keighley MP Ann Cryer are among more than 100 MPs who signed the petition.

The council has been trying to influence the Government's Regional Spatial Strategy which becomes law in 2007 and is a framework for development. It calls for more than 30,000 homes to be created across the district by 2021. This figure is more than double what the council believes is needed - and officers fear the plan could tear up acres of green belt land instead of assisting urban regeneration.

Cllr Hawkesworth said: "The Government wants to build 30,000 houses across the district but the council is objecting on the grounds that we will not have the necessary infrastructure in place in the time-scale given."

A public inquiry on the draft RSS starts next month in Leeds when the council will make its objections known.

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