Controversial plans for housing at the former Airedale Mills site in Rodley – and the associated replacement of the swing bridge – have certainly led to much concern in the village and surrounding area. WLD editor JOHN BARON takes a detailed look at the two (highly complex) issues and where we stand now…
An important thing to remember that the overall development is being derived by two separate planning applications by two different applicants. One has been approved, one is awaiting a decision by Leeds City Council.
Plans by Dynamic Capital & Investments for access to the site and a new swing bridge, alongside the principle of a housing development of up to 69 houses, was green-lit by councillors in July 2019.
A second planning application including the detailed proposals for 66 new homes was first submitted last December by Casa By Moda (part of construction giants Caddick) and include layout, scale, appearance and landscaping.
Moss Bridge Works
Work on a replacement bridge started in January 2022, following a successful planning application which approved the new bridge and access to the site, as well as outline permission to build up to 69 new properties on the site.
The current landowners are building the bridge in a bid to sell the Airedale Mills site for housing. The old bridge only allowed one vehicle to cross at a time. The problem is that the works have massively over-run, and affect easy access to both Rodley Nature Reserve and Rodley Cricket Club.
Work was originally due to take three months, but a number of completion dates (including May, August and October) have now slipped by.
Latest information we have is that the new bridge will be lifted into place on 31 October 2022, then the roadworks and cable work will take place, with full access for the public from 14 December. Watch this space to see if those dates prove accurate.
Leeds City Council claim the developers have breached their planning conditions, although the developers have placed at least some of the blame elsewhere and on the complex nature of the work.
If this is true, why isn’t the council taking action?
It’s a complicated answer, but essentially any enforcement would likely take the form of compensation towards those most affected by the delays, namely Rodley Cricket Club and Rodley Nature Reserve (something the developers have previously indicated they’d pay).
Any formal enforcement action is likely to be considered by the council once the works have been completed. Potential enforcement action to just stop work on the new bridge doesn’t make sense, as we’d just be left without a bridge for even longer (which is in nobody’s interests).
It’s worth noting that the bridge will be owned by Yorkshire Water, while the council will take responsibility for the road surface going over it.
Once it’s up and running and in use, the management of the bridge will be initially taken on by a group formed of representatives of Yorkshire Water, the nature reserve, cricket club and others, who will have a small maintenance budget to manage it.
So how did it come to this mess in the first place?
This is where it gets muddier and more details may be forthcoming when the council releases a detailed report ahead of next month’s planning meeting. Let’s just say most parties are saying ‘don’t blame us’. The council blames the developer for starting work too soon, the developer blames the council and changing designs as well as the complex nature of the works. Keep your eyes peeled on this one, there’s more to come out on this.
Detailed housing application
The principle of building houses on the site was established when the council’s planning blueprint, know as the Site Allocations Plan, was adopted by the council in July 2019 following a public consultation.
Outline plans establishing the principle of a housing development of up to 69 homes were also green lit by city councillors that same year.
It’s important to note that as the principle of housing is already established on the site, alongside access, so these are no longer issues for the council to consider.
Instead councillors will consider Caddick Construction’s detailed plans, which look at the design and scale of the houses and the layout and landscaping of the site. These will be decided by councillors sitting on a plans panel meeting at the Civic Hall in November.
Councillors will need to make their decisions based on recommendations from council planning officers, which will be based on local and national planning policy connected to brownfield sites, which is the classification of land at Airedale Mills.
To translate this bluntly: There’s no point in objecting about the principle of housing or the number of properties on the Airedale Mills site – that ship sailed years ago. Any comments need to be around layout, landscaping, scale and design.
The plans have been delayed due to a number of concerns connected to the details of the proposals, including the loss of an eco buffer between the nature reserve and development. WLD has been told by some councillors that this issue has been resolved.
The delay in the council deciding this full planning application is not linked to the delays in the bridge, which is a separate issue in planning terms. A planning application is, by its nature, hypothetical – for example, you could put in a planning application for a hotel where my house currently stands even though you don’t own the house. The council would be obliged to consider it. You couldn’t, however build it without my consent.
The current lack of a bridge doesn’t, in planning terms, affect the detailed application for housing – they’re two separate applications.
Want to find out more? All the documents related to the bridge and successful outline application for housing can be found here. Details of the detailed plans for housing, which are still to be decided, alongside 315 associated documents, can be found and commented upon here.
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