Controversial plans to fill in part of historic Greenside Tunnel railway cutting in Pudsey have been approved by councillors.
Developer EP Homes, which has already built properties on nearby Fartown, applied for planning permission to partially fill the cutting using construction, demolition and excavation materials temporarily stockpiled next to the cutting.
More than 50 local objections had been lodged, along with representations from Pudsey Labour Party and Stuart Andrew MP. Concerns includes the loss of local history and the impact on bats in the tunnel and local wildlife.
But councillors on the south and west plans panel approved the proposals today by seven votes to one, with two abstentions.
David Dowden, from Pudsey Labour Party, told the meeting many local residents had objected – and said there were fears the partial infill could lead to a future application for housing on the site.
Martin Stanley, from the Leeds Cycling Campaign, called on the application to be deferred, saying the cutting could have been used as a greenway linking Pudsey to Tyersal and beyond by bike if time were granted to work up a feasibility study.
Campaigner Charlotte Hobson, of the Save Greenside Tunnel Campaign, highlighted the impact on bats in the tunnel.
But council planning officer Jessica Thomas said the cutting would be partially filled in from the middle of the site and there would be a 10-metre exclusion zone from both Greenside Tunnel and the railway bridge, which would ensure the bats would not be disturbed.
She said the land, which is privately owned, is legally designated a landfill site – and that none of the concerns about the impact on the heritage of the site raised outweighed national planning policy.
Pudsey Labour councillor Mick Coulson told the meeting that the site had a long history and that plans to infill parts of the railway cutting were refused in the 1980s because the landowner at the time wanted to include a rock crusher and a 300-tonne roller, which would have adversely impacted on residents on Station Road and beyond.
He said the partial filling of the railway cutting would be by crane and there would be no wagons to disrupt residents, which made the application different to the one refused in the 80s. He said there were concerns about future planning applications on the site:
“But what happens after today we can’t discuss as it would be a new planning application. We can only consider what we have in front of us today.”
Meeting chair Cllr Caroline Gruen (Lab, Bramley), agreed. She said:
“We are here to consider this application and not future ones.”
After the meeting, one of the campaigners said the decision was ‘disappointing’ but there was a depth of local feeling which meant that the community would fight future plans every step of the way – and ensure that EP Homes were meeting planning conditions.
Permission was granted subject to a number of conditions, including a three-year time limit on commencement, an environment management plan for bats, suppression of dust and noise mitigation measures, among others.
A planning officer’s report recommending approval can be found here.
Greenside Tunnel was opened in 1893 but has been closed since 15 July 1964.
Read more about The Dispatch’s coverage of the issue here.