A community group in Otley is aiming to buy a long-disputed riverside site and return it to nature.

The residents have just applied to Leeds City Council to make a Community Right to Bid for the old Bridge End Cattle Market plot.

The land, which is on a flood plan and has had previous plans for housing and parking refused, was put on sale earlier this year – when one local councillor humorously suggested that he would buy it for £1.

The Community Right to Bid step, however, is a serious attempt to get the 3.4-acre site back under local control and safeguarded against any more development proposals.

The city council now has to make a decision on whether or not to accept the proposal within eight weeks.

If successful, the bid would give the community group a six-month window in which to try and raise the necessary funds to buy the land.

Councillor Sandy Lay (Lib Dem, Otley & Yeadon) said the ward councillors were all behind the move. He said: “We are in favour of this and will help the group wherever we can.”

Otley Town Council is also backing the bid. Leader Councillor John Eveleigh (Lab, Ashfield) said: “We stand ready to help in any way we can.

“This is an important site within the town but there are clear limits around what use it can be put to.

“We certainly support the principle of the community right to bid on this piece of land – and it would be great to think that it could be turned over to public space.”

The former cattle market, off Billams Hill, lies within Otley Conservation Area and has stood empty since the market closed in 2000.

Its condition was a bone of contention between landowners Parkmount Estates, as they unsuccessfully tried to gain planning permission, and the Conserve Otley Riverside Campaign (CORC) for several years.

CORC insisted the plot, which still has old concrete hardstanding and other debris from the market, had been allowed to become an eyesore and has been pushing for it to be restored.

Part of the Localism Act, the Community Right to Bid scheme is intended to help residents ‘pause’ the sale of buildings or land – including parks, libraries, sports grounds, former schools and pubs – which are valued locally, so the community itself has a chance to prepare a bid.