Rethink on homes is not going far enough

14 November 2013

Telegraph & Argus

Regarding the piece in the Telegraph & Argus on November 11, any green belt land that can be saved is good, even if it is only a very small proportion.

Greenhill Action Group has been telling the Council for four years that their calculated housing numbers are wrong, as they are using formulae that have historically produced 13,720 empty homes and we do not consider the current rethink goes far enough.
Green belt does not save green fields, which have not been designated green belt but are still essential to the community’s wellbeing.
This redistribution of housing numbers results in the City of Bradford having a nominal increase in housing of only two per cent with Airedale and South Pennine having an 18 per cent reduction against Wharfedale’s 45 per cent.
In Bingley we have persuaded planning panel after planning panel that the planning submissions for Sty Lane, Micklethwaite, are flawed.
We have also persuaded the public inquiry inspector and the Secretary of State on two occasions that the developers should not be building on our green fields.
We are about to receive yet another planning submission over these green fields. How many times must we win before they cannot come back again?
Councillor Slater may say they have listened, but have they really listened? What happened to localism?
Terry Brown, Chairman, Greenhill Action Group Ltd

Planning inspector site visit cut short amid fears of foul play over swing bridge access

03 March 2012

Telegraph & Argus

A planning inspector was forced to abandon a demonstration of a canal bridge leading to the proposed site of 440 new homes on green fields near Bingley after it broke down – sparking fears it might have been tampered with. Richard Clegg, who will decide whether developers will be allowed to build the controversial housing estate in Sty Lane, Micklethwaite, had to call off the planned opening of the swing bridge across the Leeds and Liverpool Canal when its safety gates would not close. It would be replaced by a new bridge as the main access to the site if the planning appeal is allowed, in what campaigners have called a “crack-pot scheme”.

Terry Brown, who is campaigning against the proposed development as chairman of Greenhill Action Group (GAG), was on the canalside for yesterday’s failed demonstration, which was supposed to allow the inspector to see a narrow boat sail through the open swing bridge. Mr Brown said: “For some reason the bridge is not closing. My concern is that it may be seen that GAG or somebody supporting GAG has tampered with it to prove the point about what happens when the bridge breaks down. I would not condone sabotage at all.”

Airedale Boat Club member Peter Saunders, who was operating the bridge, said: “It is not unusual for it to break down. The last time I came through, we were waiting for well over an hour.”

The bridge, in Micklethwaite Lane, will be crucial to the inspector’s decision following a public inquiry on whether to allow the appeal by developers Bellway and Redrow. Campaigners say a new bridge will not be able to handle a huge increase in traffic if the homes are built. There are also concerns that the emergency services would be delayed in reaching residents of the new homes if the bridge breaks down while it is open – blocking Micklethwaite Lane.

The developers say that Oakwood Drive will be used as an emergency exit from the site if the bridge breaks.

However, Mr Brown said: “We have heard at the inquiry that if the bridge is faulty, it will take British Waterways at least an hour to come to find out what is wrong with it. Meanwhile, nobody would be able to move off the site. Once British Waterways has decided, it will take the Council another hour to get somebody out to set up traffic lights at the end of Oakwood Drive. So for two hours the traffic would be building up. It is a farce.”

Diana North, who lives yards from the bridge in Airedale Mills, said she did not believe anyone had tampered with the bridge’s safety gates. She said: “It breaks down sometimes and traffic cannot get through at all. That is the problem.”

A bridge engineer for the developers did not want to comment.

The public inquiry, which is being held at City Hall, Bradford, is expected to hear closing submissions from the developers and the Council on Tuesday.

Housing inquiry told ‘Bingley is full’

25 February 2012

Telegraph & Argus

A leading Bradford councillor told a public inquiry “Bingley is full” and that up to 440 new homes would have a devastating impact on the area’s already-congested transport network. Councillor David Heseltine, who is chairman of the Shipley Area Planning Panel which refused permission for a huge development in Sty Lane, Micklethwaite, said the Aire Valley would bear the brunt of potentially thousands of vehicles if hundreds of new homes were built. He was giving evidence to a public inquiry at City Hall, Bradford, to hear an appeal by developers Bellway and Redrow, who want to build between 420 and 440 homes on green fields near the Leeds-Liverpool Canal. 

Government inspector Richard Clegg will decide whether to allow the housing estate, which will have its main access by a new swing bridge over the canal, following the inquiry.

Giving evidence yesterday, Coun Heseltine (Con, Bingley) said: “We have to get to a point where we look at the local infrastructure and say that the roads can’t cope, the schools are full, the trains are overcrowded and that Bingley is full.” Coun Heseltine conceded that the Bingley bypass had cut the number of vehicles using Keighley Road from 28,300 every day before it was opened in 2003 to 14,000 in 2008, according to Highways Agency figures. However, in the same period, traffic in Bingley Road, Nab Wood had risen from 28,100 to 35,600 vehicle journeys each day – putting greater pressure on Saltaire Roundabout. Rural roads such as Micklethwaite Lane, Otley Road and Glovershaw Lane had also seen rises in traffic. The rail network is also badly overcrowded, he said.

Andrew Williamson, for the developers, said Bingley had been earmarked for development in the Council’s latest draft planning policies. Coun Heseltine said: “We have to look at the bigger picture.”

Earlier in the hearing, Councillor Michael Ellis (Con, Bingley Rural), a Shipley Area Planning Panel member who had voted against the proposed scheme, was asked by Mr Williamson what specifically he thought officers had “got wrong”. Coun Ellis said he believed a new swing bridge as the main entrance to the site would not be able to cope with the amount of traffic using it.

The public inquiry is expected to continue on Monday.

Bingley accident blackspot could be improved

23 February 2012

Telegraph & Argus

Developers behind plans for a huge housing estate could include safety improvements at an “accident blackspot” in a bid to persuade the authority to drop its last remaining major objection to the controversial scheme. A public inquiry continued yesterday into a planning appeal by Redrow and Bellway to build up to 440 homes in Sty Lane, Micklethwaite, near Bingley. 

Government-appointed planning inspector Richard Clegg is being asked to reverse a decision by Bradford Council to refuse the plans after concerns about access to the proposed development over a new canal swing bridge crossing the Leeds-Liverpool Canal.

Evidence into the number of cars which would be using the bridge has been withdrawn by the Council along with expert advice about the heritage of the green field site. One of the few remaining points of contention between the developers and the Council is an emergency access from the proposed site from Oakwood Drive, that would be used when the proposed swing bridge is broken or closed for maintenance, and leads onto Lady Lane.

Richard Gelder, the Council’s transport development manager, told the hearing that the junction of Oakwood Drive and Lady Lane was “dangerous”. He said the sloping junction and another section of Lady Lane had been added to improvements but no money had been made available. Andrew Williamson, for the developers, said to Mr Gelder: “If we could engineer an improvement to that junction as a result of this development, it would actually be a positive. If we can remove an accident blackspot, which is on a site of concern, that is a reason for agreeing planning permission not refusing it. Wouldn’t you agree?” He said: “Yes, I would agree.”

Greenhill Action Group (GAG) which has opposed the Sty Lane development, describing it as a “crackpot scheme doomed to failure.” Jack Smyth, the group’s barrister, called traffic expert Geoff Bowman to give evidence at yesterday’s hearing. Mr Bowman, who has 25 years experience of traffic planning, said there was “no guarantee” any traffic improvements could be delivered at the junction. The public inquiry was due to continue today at City Hall.

"Crack-pot scheme doomed to failure"

22 February 2012

Telegraph & Argus

Public inquiry begins into plans for homes on greenfield site in Sty Lane, Micklethwaite. A campaign group has described plans for a huge housing estate as a “crack-pot scheme doomed to failure” at the start of a public inquiry into the controversial proposals. Battle lines have been drawn in the fight for greenfield land at Sty Lane, Micklethwaite, near Bingley, where between 420 and 440 homes could be built under a scheme put forward by developers Bellway and Redrow.

Government inspector Richard Clegg opened the public inquiry yesterday after the developers appealed against Bradford Council’s refusal of planning permission. Mr Clegg will now decide on the future of the planned housing estate and, crucially, whether to allow a new swing bridge to be built over the Leeds Liverpool Canal, to provide the main access to the site.

Greenhill Action Group (GAG), who have raised £60,000 to fight the plans, have raised fears about road safety and the inability of the transport network to cope with so many new homes. Jack Smyth, the barrister representing GAG at yesterday’s hearing, said: “The idea that the primary means of access to a 440-home housing estate is a swing bridge is without precedent. It is a crackpot scheme which is doomed to failure.”

The inquiry heard evidence from heart specialist Dr Christopher Morley, who warned that lives could be lost unless developers could guarantee there would be no delays in ambulances reaching patients. Dr Morley, who works at Bradford Royal Infirmary and lives off Greenhill Lane, Micklethwaite, called for proof that there would be no risk to public safety if the swing bridge was closed in the future.

He said: “My considerable concern is that the developers should provide absolute assurance, with proof beyond doubt that there is no risk of delay from the site. Each minute’s delay results in more deaths. It is the lives of my neighbours and patients which would be lost.” The doctor was among about 100 people at the public hearing, which is set to continue today in City Hall, Bradford.

The developers’ barrister Andrew Williamson told the inquiry he would prove that the planning benefits would “outweigh any harms” identified by objectors. He said the developers would keep “the existing landscape, form and character” of the area “at the heart of the scheme’s design”.

Mr Smyth hit out claims that up to 440 homes would not cause “material harm” to the greenfield area next to the canal. He said: “This is probably the most incredible submission I have ever heard at a planning inquiry.”

Martin Carter, representing the Council, said the planned emergency access from Oakwood Drive, was “inadequate” and put highway safety at risk. A replacement swing bridge as the main route to the estate would be inadequate and impractical, he said.

Developers try to overcome Council concern over homes bid

13 January 2012

Telegraph & Argus

One of Bradford’s longest-running planning sagas has taken a twist after developers submitted plans to improve access to the site. Redrow Homes and Bellway Homes Ltd have been locked in a battle with campaigners over plans to build up to 440 homes in Sty Lane, Micklethwaite, Bingley.

The plans were rejected by Bradford Council amid concerns about access. The applicants appealed the decision and an appeal hearing is due to start in February. However, the applicants have now submitted plans for a swing bridge over the Leeds-Liverpool Canal to replace the existing swing bridge. The scheme, which has been recommended for approval, is designed to improve access at the site and campaigners fear the amended plans could pave the way for a planning inspector to pass the plans.

Terry Brown, chairman of Greenhill Action Group, which has spent thousands of pounds fighting the development, said: “If the planning panel approves the swing bridge application it will give the wrong message to the planning inspector and will only add to the developers’ armoury. “I can’t see how Bradford Council can possibly go to the planning panel with the recommendation of approval. One of the reasons the panel voted six to one against the housing application before them in September was that a swing bridge was an unsuitable way to access such a large estate.”

Shipley Area Planning Panel will consider the latest plans at a meeting in Shipley Town Hall on Wednesday. Because the swing bridge application is part of the appeal, councillors will not be granting or refusing planning permission but their decision will be noted by the Government inspector.

The new proposals include replacing the single-lane swing bridge at Micklethwaite Lane with a larger two-way swing bridge. The developers say the new bridge would improve access but a number of complaints have already been lodged. One of those quoted in the report for panel members says: “The proposed new bridge will be three times wider than the original bridge and will destroy the conservation area.”

Others fear the infrastructure in Crossflatts and Bingley is “inadequate” to deal with the influx of new residents should the plans go ahead.

The council report states the application is for the replacement of the existing bridge and should be only considered on that basis. It urges councillors not to consider the bridge in terms of the associated housing site.

Redrow and Bellway declined to comment.

Bradford Council blunder could put hundreds of new homes in doubt

14 November 2011

Telegraph & Argus

The future of key housing sites across the district has been thrown into doubt after a blunder effectively left Bradford Council without any land earmarked to meet housing needs.

Fears are growing that the technicality could lead to an influx of legal challenges to the authority, particularly over planning bids at controversial sites, such as Sty Lane, at Micklethwaite, near Bingley, and Derry Hill and Bingley Road at Menston. And any judicial reviews called as a result of the mistake could be extremely costly to the Council.

Campaigners from one group fighting to prevent the development of up to 440 homes at Sty Lane now hope to use the admission from the Council as a key argument in their bid to stop planning permission being granted on appeal.

Terry Brown, chairman of Greenhill Action Group, told the Telegraph & Argus: “Whether the site has been actually allocated for housing or not will have a big impact on any appeal. “If there is no presumption for housing, it will help our case against planning permission being granted.”

It appears that after almost 300 sites were allocated for housing in the Replacement Unitary Development plan in 2005 there was an omission by the Council at its review three years ago and major housing sites were not properly protected in paperwork ratified by the Government.

The Council’s chief executive Tony Reeves said: “This is an error based on legal advice given at the time which has since been questioned. Planners are working hard to ensure that the status of previously-allocated housing sites is clarified. Our primary concern is to ensure that all our policies are robust. “This is a genuine mistake with unintended consequences but I am sure that our planning service can soon ensure that everything is in order.”

A special meeting of the Council’s decision-making executive will be held a week today at which senior councillors will be asked to back a resolution which it is hoped will clarify the issue.

The issue was due to be added to Friday’s executive agenda at short notice but the move was blocked by Tory group leader Glen Miller. Council leader Ian Greenwood (Lab, Little Horton) accused Coun Miller of behaving “like a baby throwing a dummy out of his pram”. He said: “Every time we turn over a stone from the Conservative administration we find another mistake or error which is down to their incompetent leadership of the Council. This clearly needs dealing with as soon as possible “It’s particularly ironic that this relates to a period when the Conservatives were in control. It demonstrates yet again their total hypocrisy in respect of their leadership of the Council.”

Coun Jeanette Sunderland, leader of the Liberal Democrat group, said she was concerned by the refusal of the Tories to allow the executive to take a decision as a matter of urgency. She said: “I am extremely concerned that this will leave the Council in a vulnerable position in relation to a number of sites including the appeal at Sty Lane, Derry Hill and Bingley Road, and other applications in the pipeline or delayed while Section 106 agreements are being organised. The delay could potentially lead to judicial review of decisions and considerable cost to the Council.”

Coun Miller said: “This leaves the Council open to legal challenge and it appears that this has already happened in relation to one site". “Whilst it is clear that the Council was intent on transferring land allocations across from the old policy to the new, it did not happen in accordance with the proper practice and in theory the Council currently has no major allocated housing sites. There is no land legitimately allocated to meet future housing demand.”

He said his group opposed the matter going straight to Friday’s executive as it required proper scrutiny, saying it was “a very serious mistake on the part of the planning department”.

But Coun Greenwood confirmed to the T&A that the matter would not be going to a scrutiny panel first under emergency powers, given the urgent nature of the decision required

Give us funds to fight Micklethwaite homes appeal

13 October 2011

Telegraph & Argus

Campaigners against a proposed housing development on green fields near Bingley have made an urgent call for funds to help fight a planning appeal.

Bradford councillors overwhelmingly rejected an application to build up to 440 homes at Sty Lane in Micklethwaite at a planning committee meeting in Bingley last month. They said access to the site, via a swing bridge over the Leeds-Liverpool Canal, was inadequate.

But developers Redrow and Bellway have lodged an appeal with the Government and a public inquiry is to start at Bradford City Hall on February 21.

Terry Brown, chairman of Greenhill Action Group (Gag), which has been fighting the proposals, said objectors now had two weeks to raise £60,000 to employ a barrister and consultants to represent them for the ten days of the inquiry.

“We have got to try to kill this appeal off once and for all,” he said. “If we don’t succeed in doing that the developers can keep coming back with applications until they wear everybody out.

“If all we do is go in and say the swing bridge is not suitable they can come back with a fixed bridge. That is why we need to spend as much as we are doing on professional help. We have got to have our experts there when the opposition are giving evidence so our experts can challenge it.”

We don't know how much land is rotting away unused

31 January 2011

Telegraph & Argus

Campaigners opposed to greenfield developments have blasted Bradford Council for its lack of up-to-date information on how much land is lying derelict across the district.

It has emerged that the last full survey of vacant land was done more than ten years ago, prompting strong calls for the local authority to assess potential brownfield development sites before allowing green sites to be destroyed.

As part of a Government-funded programme, surveys were carried out every four years until 1999, when the last survey revealed the total area of dereliction in the district amounted to 0.7sq miles, made up of 145 separate sites.

Elizabeth Hellmich, of Heaton Township Association, said: “Bradford Council need to get someone to work out how much derelict land they have got.

“They need to map it. I think they’d get quite a shock if they realised how much derelict land there was.

“Before they start building on the greenfield sites they need to build on these run-down areas.”

The report, put before a meeting of the Council’s regeneration and economy overview and scrutiny committee, said the Council looked at derelict sites on a case-by-case basis.

It stated that land had fallen into disrepair for a variety of reasons, including owners not being able to afford to maintain buildings, and in some cases buildings had been part-demolished to avoid paying business rates.

Terry Brown, chairman of Greenhill Action Group, which is fighting proposals to build 475 homes off Sty Lane, Micklethwaite, near Bingley, said: “Before we drive asunder all our green fields to build houses we should be checking on things like derelict land.”

No excuse for ignoring derelict sites

31 January 2011

Telegraph & Argus Editorial

The news that Bradford Council does not know how much derelict land there is across the district is something of a surprise, given the demand for sites for housing in the area.

At a time when communities are fighting to save greenfield land which is being earmarked for development, it must be frustrating for them to learn there are potentially dozens of disused buildings crying out to be utilised positively.

Last time anybody checked, there was a total of 145 sites considered derelict in the district – a total of 0.7sq miles of land.

That includes disused mills and former industrial buildings which would be ideal for housing development.

Given the pressure for land the Council is facing, it is time for its officers to be a lot more pro-active in working with people to develop these sites.

The first step would be to carry out a comprehensive survey to identify where the sites are and what potential uses they could have.

And it is important these locations are not simply designated as housing – the area needs proper family housing.

What it doesn’t need is more mills being converted into bachelor pads or craft centres, both of which we already have in abundance.

There can be little excuse for Council planners to be giving the go-ahead for developments on greenfield sites, which communities are rightly fighting to protect when there may be so many potential locations that are currently eyesores and, in some cases, possibly a danger to the public.

This is something they have to do quickly – and they have to do it properly.