THE Government has issued a stern warning about council plans to build more than 10,000 homes on the district’s green belt.

Local Government Secretary Sajid Javid said it was “absolutely clear” the green belt should be protected in all but exceptional circumstances.

He has decided not to intervene at this stage in Bradford Council’s plans to earmark new land for housing and industry, which would see around a quarter of the new homes built on the green belt.

He has lifted an order preventing the authority from progressing with its Local Plan, which he had placed in October while he looked into concerns raised by Shipley MP Philip Davies about the loss of green belt land in Wharfedale.

But in a letter to the Council, Mr Javid’s planning minister Gavin Barwell warned that this did not mean they approved of the use of green belt land.

He said the restrictions were only being lifted because the boundaries of the green belt were not being changed at this stage.

The Local Plan calls for 1,200 new homes to be built in Silsden, 700 in Steeton-with-Eastburn and several hundred in the Worth Valley, not all on green belt land.

In a separate letter to Mr Davies, Mr Barwell said: “The Secretary of State is not accepting that exceptional circumstances exist to justify the amendments of any specific green belt boundaries in Bradford.

“We are absolutely clear that green belt land must be protected and that local authorities should promote development on brownfield land first.”

He said the Government would consider intervening at a later date, once the plans are more specific, if the Council failed to demonstrate these exceptional circumstances.

And he said that in the meantime, Mr Javid would consider intervening in any “speculative applications” from developers hoping to build on the green belt.

Mr Davies – whose constituency includes villages like Cullingworth and Denholme which are facing hundreds of new houses – said he “really couldn’t ask for more” from ministers.

He said: “This is a warning shot across the bows to the Council. They should be looking to respond to that clear direction he’s given.”

Cllr Andrew Mallinson, who represents Craven Ward on Bradford Council, said Mr Davies’s intervention had allowed breathing space for an independent look at the council’s strategy.

He added: “There are many brownfield sites that still require unlocking. There needs to be belt a strong move towards stopping developers snapping up the easy options of green belt sites.

Fellow Craven ward councillor Adrian Naylor said the government’s latest decision did not give the green belt any further protection.

He added: “All the elements of protection were already there before Philip Davies called it in.”