PLANS for a massive new town near York have been criticised by housebuilders and planning experts.

Liberal Democrat councillors say concerns have been raised about the suitability of the suggested site for Whinthorpe, a 5,500-home development proposed under York's draft Local Plan at Holme Hill, alongside the A64 south of Heslington.

They said consultants for the Joseph Rowntree Housing Trust had said in consultation papers that they considered the site to be 'wholly inappropriate' for development in landscape and green belt terms, and felt it was impossible to identify a site or area in the countryside surrounding York where development would have a worse impact on the historic city's character or setting.

ID Planning had also said the site was in “an unsustainable location” and could become a commuter town for Leeds, while Henry Boot Developments had said the scheme was "unsustainable/undeliverable."

Lib Dem group leader Cllr Keith Aspden said it was clear that even housebuilders did not believe Whinthorpe was a sensible location in which to build 5,500 houses but, instead of listening to such views, Labour councillors seemed determined to push on and even extend their plans.

Meanwhile, York Outer Tory MP Julian Sturdy is to host a half hour debate in Westminster Hall on land ‘safeguarded’ for future long term development in Local Plans.

He said he was particularly concerned in York's case about proposals to include a 220 acre site to the East of Earswick, which, if developed, would triple the size of the village.

Labour Cabinet member Coun Dave Merrett said it was extremely important the council gained as much feedback as possible, and there had been more than 14,000 representations by developers, land owners, residents and businesses.

"During this consultation, additional information on sites was submitted by landowners and developers, in some cases suggesting their own sites were better than sites already included in the Preferred Options Local Plan."

He said that before making any final decision on sites to include in the Local Plan, the council was seeking to better understand the public views on additional information, and a targeted consultation would open for comments soon. "It is anticipated that a final draft of the Local Plan will be published for consultation mid-year and submitted for examination in autumn."

Halifax Estates, which owns much of the land where Whinthorpe is planned, said it was working closely with the council to make sure its proposals were right for York and the local community.