Words: John Baron
Rodley Nature Reserve WILL temporarily close for an ‘uncertain’ amount of time from Monday, 3 January 2022, it’s been confirmed.
The closure of the reserve and nearby canal towpath will allow for development work in preparation for building 66 new homes on the adjacent derelict Airedale Mills site.
Dynamic Capital and Investments already has outline planning permission for the site, which includes replacing the swing bridge and carrying out road works to ensure access. Work could take up to five months.
Rodley Nature Reserve Trust confirmed in a statement this week that they had ‘no option’ but to close, despite negotiations with the developers:
“These initial works include the replacement of the old canal swing bridge, together with additional road works to the approach on Moss Bridge Road. The developer has assessed that this could take up to five months and during this period there will be no access for vehicles, cyclists and pedestrians.
“This has been in the pipeline for a numbest of years and all the possibilities have been investigated.
“Due to the access restrictions of the building work, we are unable to arrange safe access into the reserve for our volunteers and visitors.”
The Trust said the closure period remains uncertain, but the latest information from the bridge contractor suggests a completion date of 1 May 2022. The statement added:
“Trustees are aware of the importance of the reserve to both wildlife and the community and will strive to minimise the duration of the closure.
“Negotiations are ongoing, but we have been assured that some of our brilliant volunteers will be able to access the site to carry out essential habitat maintenance.”
Nature reserve visitors have reacted with disappointment to the closure.
Heather Andrews said: “This is terrible news – five months is a long time. We love to just bob down to our local nature reserve with our toddler. I really hope they are giving the nature reserve some compensation?”
Roger Scales said: “Difficult, shame a mini opening couldn’t be viable for those happy to walk on the towpath … should have part of the planning permission. Goodness knows how they are going to build it and retain access.”
And Sarah Bradshaw added: “I’m sad to hear that the closure is even longer than expected. I will really miss visiting. Thank you for letting us know.”
The reserve, which was Countryfile Magazine’s Nature Reserve of the Year 2018 and is built on the site of the former Rodley Water Treatment Works, is currently open Wednesdays, Saturdays and Sundays, 9am-4pm. Its last open day will be Sunday, 2 January.
WLD first reported the potential closure of the reserve last month. Original estimates had been that closure would last for around three months.
Earlier this month developers applied for full planning permission for the 66 homes.