By John Baron
Two West Leeds councillors have issued a formal complaint about the way Leeds City Council has handled a controversial planning application to build 67 houses at a former Rodley mill site.
Detailed plans for housing on the former Airedale Mills site are due to be decided by councillors on the south and west plans panel on Thursday, despite ongoing concerns over the reliability of a newly-installed swing bridge which links to the site.
In a report, council planning officers are recommending councillors approve the plan in principle and defer final approval to the chief planning officer, subject to planning conditions – including affordable housing of 10 units and off-site greenspace enhancements of £50,000 – being signed off with the applicant.
But Councillors Andrew and Amanda Carter (Cons, Calverley & Farsley) said in a statement: “There seems to be a determined attempt to bulldoze this detailed application through without the full knowledge that the new canal bridge will work effectively.
“This will pose a continuing problem for Rodley Nature Reserve, Rodley Cricket Club, canal users in general, and the boaters.
“If and when these dwellings are built, should there be no effective access a hundred percent of the time, there could well be a serious incident and heaven forbid, a fatality, for which we can assure you, Leeds City Councill could be held responsible.”
The bridge was part of the outline (in principle) planning permission for housing approved in 2021 and has been dogged by delays and operational problems.
They claim “…it defies human logic” that the bridge access to the site is not being considered as relevant to the application itself and that ‘insufficient regard’ has been given to the implications of the bridge, which is still yet to be signed off as fit for purpose by Leeds City Council’s planning department.
The Carters also say the lack of proper parking on site will severely impact Rodley Cricket Club, Rodley Nature Reserve and those living in the residential streets immediately opposite Moss Bridge Road. They have called for residents’ only parking, particularly along Airedale Gardens and Longfield Drive.
They have now asked that one of them is allowed to speak at Thursday’s planning meeting and that there be a site visit in the morning to see if the bridge is working correctly.
Detailed proposals for 67 new build to rent homes were first submitted in December 2021 by Casa By Moda (part of construction giants Caddick).
Council planning officers are recommending that councillors on the south and west plans panel approve the plans in principle and defer planning conditions – including affordable housing of 10 units and off-site greenspace enhancements of £50,000 – to the chief planning officer for final approval.
The principle of the development – called the outline stage – and a new swing bridge to the site were approved two years ago, and the bridge opened in January.
But the plans have been met with 214 objections, with concerns including the visual impact of the development, ‘poor’ deign of the properties and concerns over access and parking.
Other objections include impacts upon highway safety, appearance and design, impact upon the community, ecology considerations and disruption to the access of Rodley Nature Reserve and Rodley Cricket Club.
Council planning chiefs have also said more work needs to be done before they will sign off the delayed new swing bridge which will provide access to the proposed ‘island’ development.
February plans panel debate
The proposals were first debated by councillors on February, when a decision was deferred to allow for further discussions between council officers to take place.
Concerns from councillors on the south and west plans panel included the layout and design of the site, off-site parking and the lack of a meaningful green space contribution.
They also said they feared a ‘catastrophe’ if emergency services struggled to cross the bridge.
A council planning officer’s report to be considered next Thursday concludes that the proposal meets local and national planning policies and adds: “Following negotiations with the agent, the scheme is considered to be policy compliant and will result in the redevelopment of a brownfield site within a sustainable location, contributing a much-needed mix of new housing to the city, including 10 affordable units.
“The design, scale, appearance, and landscaping of the development is considered to represent a complimentary addition to the local environment.”
Plans south and west meets next Thursday, 8 June, at 1.30pm in Leeds Civic Hall. The agenda and reports can be read in full here.