COUNCILLORS have approved retrospective plans for outhouses on green belt land in Illingworth.
Members of the planning committee spoke of their difficulty in coming to a decision on the plans by Treveleyn on Keighley Road, where the charity Skillshop Ltd is run.
The meeting heard the charity had moved into the site in 2009 and had built further cabins without planning permission as well as converting exsisting outbuildings.
Katalin Parry set up the charity – which teaches new skills to adults with learning difficulties – and also lives on the site with her family.
She told the meeting: “I didn’t realise I needed planning permission. I thought I was using my own garden to create beautiful surroundings for our people.”
Councillor David Hardy (Lib Dem, Elland) said: “I despair, I really do. I’m not against Skillshops. I think the work they do is absolutely brilliant. But to us as a planning committee, there are buildings there that shouldn’t be there. I don’t know where we are going. I think after this, all enforcements of little huts at the bottom of green belt needs throwing out.”
But the council’s legal officer stressed two different applications cannot be compared.
The meeting heard objections from local resident Sue Gillies who said the access road had deteriorated since Skillshop moved in and the new buildings were disproportionate additions on green belt.
Coun Barry Collins (Lab, Illingworth and Mixenden) appeared before the planning committee as ward councillor and said it was a “difficult issue” but for him “the value of the service marginally outweighs the development on green belt.”
Councillors voted in favour of the plans – but councillor Stephen Baines (Cons, Northowram and Shelf) voted to reject them, saying “I’m not happy with this quite frankly. Skillshops do a wonderful job, there’s no doubting that. But if this was for any other purpose, with planning rules this would be rejected. I feel quite strongly about that.”