CAMPAIGNERS today launched an all-out battle for a public inquiry into the controversial scheme to redevelop York's Barbican Centre, after planners gave it their backing.

The Save Our Barbican campaign also called for the centre, including its swimming pools, to stay open until the planning process had finished.

The demand for an inquiry won immediate backing from both opposition parties at City of York Council.

Labour group leader Dave Merrett said: "There are a lot of issues that have not been sorted out properly,"

Greens leader Mark Hill said an inquiry was needed to examine all the issues fully.

However, Steve Galloway, leader of the Lib Dem ruling group, said last night's decision by the planning committee was "good news" for residents, and meant the council could move forward in providing 21st century sports and leisure facilities in the City.

The committee decided to approve the proposals to revamp the auditorium and build 240 apartments, a 135-bedroom hotel and a new community swimming pool, after a debate lasting more than four hours.

The plan will now be referred to the Government, which could decide to call it in and also order an inquiry.

Placard-bearing members of the Save Our Barbican (SOB) campaign had earlier lobbied councillors in a bid to persuade them to block the proposals, and objections were raised during the meeting by representatives of York Civic Trust, the Conservation Area Advisory Panel, SOB and local residents, with concerns including overdevelopment, loss of amenity, impact on traffic, insufficient consultation and the size of the building in relation to the nearby historic city walls.

A number of councillors also raised objections. Labour councillor Tracey Simpson-Laing said there was not enough parking while her colleague Coun Ken King, said a complex built as an entertainment centre for young people would become a conference centre.

Coun David Wilde claimed English Heritage had been "traitors to the city" because of their decision not to oppose the scheme.

But Liberal Democrat Richard Moore said it was an "innovative scheme", while his colleague Coun Ann Reid said the Barbican pool needed refurbishment anyway, and the plan would include this and provide a new entertainment centre.

Updated: 10:28 Friday, April 23, 2004