OVER £3.7 million was spent by Bradford Council on highways-related feasibility studies last year, it has been revealed.

The biggest single amount, £890,000, was for an air quality management plan.

And £697,000 was devoted to a Bradford-Shipley route improvement study.

Of the 13 schemes listed, just one – £120,000 for studies into a footbridge over the Aire Valley trunk road, between Steeton and Silsden – was in the Keighley district.

The spending – totalling £3,720,000 – has been condemned by Oxenhope man Brian Hinchliffe, who obtained the data through a Freedom of Information (FOI) request.

But council chiefs say nearly all the funding was obtained from external sources, such as the Government, and could not be spent on anything else.

Mr Hinchliffe was prompted to submit the FOI request when he learned how much was being ploughed into the footbridge study.

“These figures are shocking – they take your breath away,” said Mr Hinchliffe, 69, a retired police sergeant.

“How can the council justify spending this kind of money on feasibility studies when it is cutting services and shutting the likes of Haworth Visitor Information Centre?

“The money would be better spent on repairing potholes.

“And why was it necessary to carry out a feasibility study into the footbridge, when you could just go to a local engineering firm?

“This spending is a disgrace – and of course it only covers highways schemes.”

He said he’d also sought information on architectural services feasibility studies, which totalled just over £58,000.

Worth Valley councillor Rebecca Poulsen, the deputy leader of the Conservative group on Bradford Council, shares concern at the spending on highways studies.

“It adds up to an awful lot of money on looking at the feasibility of schemes rather than actually carrying out improvement works,” she said.

“It’s also notable how many of the schemes on the list are in Bradford, rather than across other parts of the district.”

But Councillor Alex Ross-Shaw, the council’s portfolio holder for regeneration, planning and transport, defends the studies.

“Funding bodies require councils to show they have considered all the technical and engineering solutions to known problems,” he said.

“They are the first stage of building a business case for large-scale projects such as our air quality management plan or our transport improvement projects through the West Yorkshire Combined Authority.

“Many of them support major projects that will deliver significant benefits to the district.

“They include the redevelopment of Forster Square station which will provide a high-quality gateway into the city centre from Airedale, and the Bradford-Shipley route improvement scheme which will reduce congestion and support affordable housing development on brownfield sites at New Bolton Woods.

“Successfully completing these studies has unlocked a further £3m for redeveloping Forster Square and £1.6m for Bradford Interchange.

“Feasibility work like this has also allowed us to make major improvements to Hard Ings Road in Keighley, which will begin very soon.”