Heaton, Tong, Micklethwaite, Baildon and Wharfedale groups to unite

25 January 2011

Telegraph & Argus

Campaigners fighting proposed housing developments across the district are to set up a steering group to help them challenge Bradford Council’s planning policies.

Protesters from five campaign groups were among around 70 people at a public meeting last night, where it was agreed a petition should be started over aspects of the authority’s replacement Unitary Development Plan, which informs planning decisions.

Elizabeth Hellmich, chairman of the Heaton Township Association, which organised the meeting at St Barnabas Village Hall in Ashwell Road, said the organisation was not against future development but wanted residents’ views to be given greater consideration during the planning process.

She said: “In a lot of the dealings we have had with the planners we found the thoughts of the electorate are not taken into account or it appears that they are not.

“We would like the Council to have a look at what’s going on and instead of saying ‘our hands are tied because of the RUDP’, we want them to have look at it and see what can be altered.”

 Sue Brown, a member of the association’s committee, said she found planning officers to be approachable and informative but outlined concerns she had over procedures.

She said: “We are the residents of Bradford. We are constantly suffering due to the systematic destruction of what we hold dear.”

The meeting also heard from members of the Tong and Fulneck Valley Association, which is campaigning against the development of up to 5,000 homes on green belt land, the Greenhill Action Group, which is objecting to plans for almost 500 homes in Micklethwaite, Baildon Residents Against Indiscriminate Development and the Wharfedale and Airedale Refuse Development group.

John Milnes, a Heaton resident, told the meeting: “This has got to be about how we go forward from here – not as groups but together.”

The steering group will now meet to decide the wording of the petition.

Figures don't tell the whole story

14 January 2011

Telegraph & Argus

According to the Government’s Communities and Local Government office, there are 13,720 empty and boarded-up homes in Bradford.

Across West Yorkshire the number is reportedly 47,477. The Secretary of State in charge of this department is former Bradford Council Conservative leader Eric Pickles MP.

The current number of what Bradford Council says are problem properties – empty for six months or longer – is 3,445.

But there are also 10,313 homes which have been empty for less than six months, in a state of transitional ownership – someone has died and the property has been put up for sale.

Last July, when the Telegraph & Argus last highlighted long-term empty homes in Bradford, the figure was 3,800. So it looks as though there has been an improvement rather than a worsening.

Perhaps that explains the note of resigned irony among Bradford housing officials about the Government figure. While the 13,720 is not wrong, it does not tell the whole story, said Jez Lester, assistant chief executive (asset management) of social housing landlord Incommunities, which owns and manages more than 22,000 homes.

He says: “The figure issued by the Communities and Local Government office doesn’t differentiate between long and short-term vacancies and the different qualities and types of accommodation.

“What we are finding increasingly is that bedsits for the elderly are unpopular and are not being taken up. It shows that the elderly and their families don’t want to move into this kind of accommodation.

“We also have an over-supply of one-bed flats. Forty per cent of our stock is one-bed flats. They aren’t being taken up and are obsolete to requirements.

“Some of these empty homes will come into the Pickles figure of 13,720. But this figure gives the impression that they are all available for letting, but they are not.

“We have 18,600 people registered on our homes system who want to move into family houses. People’s aspirations are moving from flats to houses. Nobody wants one-bed flats anymore.

“We are in desperate need of two, three, four-bed family houses with affordable rents.”

Bradford Council already has a housing regeneration unit in Jacob’s Well, set up with a £3m budget to deal with the problem of empty and vandalised properties. Council leader Councillor Ian Greenwood said plenty of good things were being done, but the problem of long-term empty houses was complicated.

He says: “There are people leaving stuff derelict because they can’t be bothered. It’s not simply that money is short. Some of the worst cases are mental health problems.

“One property in my ward was derelict for 15 years because of this. That was one of the first ones the housing strategy unit did. It’s now back in proper occupation.

“Eric Pickles has made the job more difficult by making us wait two years instead of one before we can purchase such homes.”

Almost 20 years ago, the T&A ran a series of in-depth news and feature articles about what council housing officials then were calling a crisis.

On the back of Margaret Thatcher’s policy of selling-off council houses, people such as housing director Jack Feather were concerned that too few houses were being built or maintained to serve the metropolitan district’s growing population.

The population is now about 500,000, but there is still a shortage of housing appropriate to the needs of people. The 3,445 long-term empty properties is just part of the problem, not the whole of it.

So is there any positive news to report?

Bradford Council starts building houses on two sites this year, with funding from the Homes and Communities agency.

In the past two years, Incommunities, which borrows money from Nationwide and Barclays, has built 278 houses and is on site with another 40 which will be for rent. In addition, it is building 52 houses for shared ownership, where the resident buys a percentage of the equity and pays rent on the remainder of the property’s value.

Mr Lester says: “Access to mortgages is still a problem, so part-buy, part-rent shared ownership is popular – depending on location. It wouldn’t necessarily work in areas where the market is depressed.”

Over the past eight years of its existence, Incommunities has spent £300m on upgrading its housing stock, installing 12,000 new bathrooms, 12,000 new kitchens and 15,000 new central heating systems, he adds.

Heaton group calls on others to link up over Bradford developments

07 January 2011

Telegraph & Argus

Protesters against a bid to build homes on an undeveloped site in Bradford have invited groups fighting other green field developments to join forces against the Council’s planning policies.

Heaton Township Association chairman Elizabeth Hellmich said it hoped to start a petition asking the Council to reconsider its development policies at a public meeting later this month.

She said: “What we want to do is get all the other groups in Bradford together which are having the same problems as we are having at this meeting.

“We are not being listened to. They are building on green sites and expanding the city out further and further. In the middle we have got the brown field sites but because it appears to be easier they are just going for the green fields.

“There isn’t the infrastructure for it.”

Mrs Hellmich said the association wanted to hear from groups including the Greenhill Action Group, which has been campaigning against a development of 475 homes off Sty Lane, Micklethwaite, and the Tong and Fulneck Valley Partnership, which opposes plans which set out Tong Valley for potential development.

Other groups invited to the meeting include Baildon Residents Against Inappropriate Development, which opposes a planned multi-million pound hi-tech business park, and the Menston Action Group, which has campaigned against Barratt Homes’ proposal for 174 homes in Derry Hill in the village.

The meeting will be held from 7pm on Monday, January 24, at Heaton St Barnabas Village Hall, in Ashwell Road, Heaton.

Julian Jackson, the Council’s assistant director for planning, transportation and highways, said all development proposals were determined in accordance with the statutory development plan, the replacement Unitary Development Plan (RUDP) adopted in 2005.

Bigger payment for brownfield sites could help Micklethwaite and Menston campaigners

19 October 2010

Telegraph & Argus

Calls by the Telegraph & Argus to double the amount of cash councils are given for every house built on brownfield land will be considered by the Government after an MP’s lobbying.
Shipley MP Philip Davies sent Housing Minister Grant Shapps a copy of an editorial comment in the T&A calling for better incentives for using brownfield sites rather than greenfield sites for new house building.
The T&A’s ongoing Battle for the Green Belt campaign has highlighted the threat to greenfield sites for many years.
Under Government plans, councils in England will be offered extra money for every newly-built home to ease housing shortages. The New Home Bonus scheme would match the council tax raised on each new house for six years.
But the T&A suggested doubling the cash for houses on brownfield sites to protect the country’s green fields.
Mr Davies said: “Why would we want to pay developers to build on greenfield sites. We do not want a financial incentive for that but for incentives to regenerate places that need regeneration. That is more sensible.
“We obviously have to find the right balance between building enough homes to allow younger people to find a house and make sure they are not unaffordable but they have to be in the right places.
 “It strikes me that rewarding developments in the places we want new houses is the right thing to do and it also protects places like Micklethwaite and Menston against houses they do not want.”
The call to reward brownfield use comes as the controversy to build more than 750 homes on sites next to the Leeds-Liverpool Canal in Sty Lane, Micklethwaite, Bingley, and at Derry Hill and Bingley Road in Menston.
Greenhill Action Group has been formed to lead the protest in Micklethwaite while Menston Action Group is opposing the Menston proposals.
Mr Shapps said: “We have undertaken to maintain the Green Belt. It is now up to the individual local planning authority, in co-operation with other local authorities as appropriate to assess local housing need and ensure that the right policies for each community are adopted in the local plan.
“I welcome the comments about the use of brownfield sites for new homes. The comments will be considered alongside other responses to the consultation which will be published shortly.”

Police concern over development

19 April 2010

Telegraph & Argus

Police have expressed concerns about plans to build 475 homes in the Aire Valley.
Officers said there were security issues they believed had not been “satisfactorily addressed” in Bellway and Redrow’s application to build the estate off Sty Lane, Micklethwaite, Bingley.
Paul Corah, Bradford district architectural liaison officer for West Yorkshire Police, said the layout of the estate incorporated several features which could generate crime.
The list of potential problems included parking behind houses and cul de sacs with too many footpath exits for criminals.
Mr Corah’s report stated: “Rear parking courts present a number of problems and the belief that they are acceptable if they are provided with ‘natural surveillance from occupants’ is misleading and over-reliant as a means to reducing crime.”
Mr Corah said where cul de sacs had several footpath exits crime can be higher than cul de sacs which had fewer exits.
He also said that the plan for five access routes off the estate onto the canal towpath was “excessive and is unacceptable in terms of the additional escape routes the inclusion of these routes present.”
He advised reducing the number of footpaths to make it easier for potential criminals to be spotted.
Mr Corah also urged the developers to carefully consider the lighting of the estate and landscaping issues.
He said the aim should be to avoid creating hiding places or dark and secluded areas.
The report concluded: “This application cannot be fully supported by West Yorkshire Police without the above issues being satisfactorily addressed.”
The Greenhill Action Group (GAG), which opposes the development, has raised a petition containing more than 1,000 signatures.
On Saturday, the group hosted a stall at Bingley market where people were able to complete an objection postcard and sign the petition.
GAG chairman Terry Brown said he was concerned that crime prevention was being inadequately addressed by the developers.
He said: “There are so many footpaths, and so on. When it comes down to it, the safety and the security of the residents, if the scheme was to go ahead, should be paramount in the developer’s considerations, rather than how many houses they can get on the site.
“We are not aware of all the security and the police guidelines regarding these sorts of things and it’s good that the police have taken the time to look at this and comment on the site.”
Bellway and Redrow declined to comment on the police concerns.

Survey claims mass opposition

09 April 2010

Telegraph & Argus

Most canal users oppose plans for a controversial waterside housing development, according to a survey by protesters.
The Greenhill Action Group (GAG) commissioned the poll on the towpath of the Leeds-Liverpool Canal at Micklethwaite, Bingley. The group is fighting plans to build 475 homes off Sty Lane, near Bingley’s famous Five Rise Locks.
The group says research revealed 97 per cent of those questioned disapproved of the proposed development, believing it would have a negative impact on their enjoyment of the area.
In a period of six days at the end of March, more than 2,090 people were recorded as using the towpath. Of those, a total of 512 people were interviewed for the survey. According to the research, 41 per cent said they would visit the area less often if the new houses were built.
The group said towpath users expressed particular concerns over the potential loss of habitat for birds along the canal bank, destruction of green space and loss of a pleasant view.
GAG chairman Terry Brown said: “The survey demonstrates how popular this section of the canal is and its relevance as a leisure amenity, for both the local community and to visitors.
 “The results reflect a high level of disapproval for this housing development.”
The group said the survey will be submitted to Bradford Council for consideration as part of the planning application process for the housing development. Construction giants Bellway and Redrow have applied for outline planning permission for the new homes.
A drop-in meeting has been held at Bingley Arts Centre to give residents the chance to inspect the plans.
A public meeting has been organised by the group at Bingley Grammar School on Thursday, April 22, at 7pm.
Bellway and Redrow declined to comment on the opposition to the proposals.

Homes plan protesters demand more time to fight giant scheme

25 March 2010

Yorkshire Post

Opponents of a controversial housing development in West Yorkshire are urging Bradford Council to defer the planning application until after the local elections.
A bid to build 475 homes north of Laythorpe Farm, Sty Lane, Micklethwaite, Bingley, has led to a wave of opposition.
Redrow Homes (Yorkshire) Ltd and Bellway Homes Ltd have submitted a planning application for the dwellings as well as a new swing ADVERTISEMENT bridge over the Leeds and Liverpool canal and provision of new accesses off Sty Lane and Micklethwaite Lane, access off Fairfax Road and off-site highway improvements.
Greenhill Action Group, which fought off efforts to build on the site in 1993, says the impending local elections and a recent problem with Bradford Council's website are hindering efforts to learn more about the proposal.
The group's chairman Terry Brown, is calling for the application to be withdrawn and resubmitted after the local election.
Mr Brown said: "The planning application has a 16-week period (in which) to be determined. That 16 weeks is up on June 23. We have the local elections coming up so no-one can talk about anything in the six weeks before that. The developers have all the information but we are getting it in dribs and drabs."
Mr Brown has written to Bradford Council chief executive Tony Reeves requesting that the planning application be deferred until after the local elections.
He claims that the council's website was unusable from March 3 to 20, making it impossible for the public to download the large volume of documents attached to the planning application.
He also says that it took over three months to get confirmation that the group could use an online petition and that conflicting information had been given about the closing dates for representations to be received about the plan.
In his letter to Mr Reeves, Mr Brown said there would be "no public meeting until May 12" and called for the application to be deferred until after the local elections "when the community can be correctly informed and have the opportunity to make well considered, valid representations regarding this application."
He said that "the planning application determination period falls during the local elections and Neighbourhood Forums are barred from arranging a meeting during the six-week period prior to the local elections.
"I believe dispensation was requested and refused. Surely there is a moral duty of fairness to the public and electorate of Bradford."
Opponents of the scheme are worried about traffic access, the volume of traffic which will be generated, and the loss of green space.
Peter Bridgman, Bradford Council's development manager, said the council has no legal power to demand that the applicant withdraw the planning application.
He added: "Our legal duty is to publicise the application to give people the opportunity to comment and this has been done.
"The earliest the application will be discussed by a planning panel is May 25 and people have until then to make comments.
"People can call into Shipley Town Hall and examine the plans and there will be a drop-in session on April 7 at Bingley Arts Centre between 10am and midday.
"There is also a special Neighbourhood Forum at Bingley Grammar School on May 11 at 7pm specifically on this subject.
"Unfortunately there have been a few glitches due to a new website which we are trying to rectify as soon as possible."

Micklethwaite campaigners employ experts

02 December 2009

Telegraph & Argus

A campaign group has employed two advisers to help in a bid to block plans to build up to 600 homes on open countryside.
The Greenhill Action Group (GAG) is opposing development by builders Bellway and Redrow near Sty Lane, Micklethwaite, Bingley.
They have employed town planning expert Richard Raper of Richard Raper Ltd and highways consultant Geoff Bowman, of Leeds firm White Young Green.
Their appointments were announced at a public meeting at St Aidan’s church, in Crossflatts, yesterday.
The developers submitted an outline application to Bradford Council but it was rejected because it was not detailed, planning officer Fiona Tiplady told the meeting. They are expected to re-submit the application.
Terry Brown, of GAG said the “vast majority” of people near the area were against the development.

Is there a need for new homes?

26 November 2009

Telegraph & Argus

SIR – I see developers are again lodging planning permission with Bradford Council for housing on the greenfield land off Micklethwaite Lane for 400 homes. This is a diabolical imposition on the residents of Crossflatts and Micklethwaite.
This land is at present green belt. Has that been forgotten? It’s going to cover a stretch along the canalside with open fields full of wildlife; there are wild geese, ducks, breeding swans, rabbits and hare in the fields. All the hedgerows, trees and green fields will be lost forever, replaced by concrete areas and roads.
The swing bridge over the canal will certainly not be adequate to take the excess traffic from these 400-odd dwellings. The traffic problem will only get worse as the south side of Crossflatts has only one outlet onto the main Bradford/Keighley road.
Everybody was told the north and south bogs would be kept intact. They didn’t say they would be reduced. The area was slowly dissembled then.
Where are the amenities and industry to uphold the growth of people? Four hundred homes on Green Lane, 200 flats off Micklethwaite Lane, 12 flats on Station Road, plus this 400 and yet another ten pending on Sleningford Road. Is that not outrageous?
R Whitehead, Sleningford Rise, Crossflatts

Proposal Stirs Debate

26 November 2009

Telegraph & Argus
Opposition mounts to new homes plan ...
.... Micklethwaite is a beautiful green space in a tourist area and should not be spoiled just to build more houses to meet Council housing targets when there are so many empty properties throughout the Bradford area. by "brownt53"
.... Not in my back yard brigade desparately trying to convince everyone that the issue is traffic when in reality they are a bunch of snobs who want to keep the village just for themselves! by "finemess"