CONTROVERSIAL plans to build more than 100 homes on fields at Strensall, near York, are to go to a public inquiry.

Local Government Secretary Eric Pickles has decided to 'call in' the application by Linden Homes North for a £12.4 million development on land north of Brecks Lane.

The 102-home scheme was approved by City of York Council's planning committee on a 9-7 vote earlier this year, despite objections from 122 residents, York Outer MP Julian Sturdy and Strensall councillor Paul Doughty..

Opponents raised concerns that the village's drains could not cope with more development, the village school could not take more pupils without children's education being harmed and local roads could not handle extra traffic.

Now planning minister Nick Boles has told Mr Sturdy that while planning applications were generally only called in if planning issues of more than local importance were involved, Mr Pickles had indicated there were occasions when it was right for him to decide the issue, normally following a public inquiry.

Mr Pickles said he particularly wished to be informed about the extent to which the development was consistent with Government policies on protecting Green Belt land and the the extent to which it was consistent with the development plan for the area.

Mr Sturdy said he was delighted the Minister had removed the council's power to determine a 'deeply contentious' planning application.

He said: "The public inquiry should give the local residents the opportunity to voice their very real concerns about this development under the assurance that they will not be glossed over as they appear to have been by the City if York Council."

Strensall Ward Councillor Paul Doughty said that to his mind, some planning committee members were too eager to dismiss the relevance of the greenbelt and the impact of the development on the village and its inhabitants.

"It is also encouraging to hear that the Secretary of State wishes to see details of relevant local development plans," he said, adding that he hoped the council would now give some urgency to the adoption of a design statement for Strensall to supplement local planning guidelines to help ensure any future development was appropriate.