Developers building a new swing bridge which will link to a planned housing development in Rodley have warned it could now be August before work is completed.
The new Moss Swing Bridge over the canal was supposed to be open by May, but work has failed to progress as expected – much to the disappointment of volunteers at both Rodley Cricket Club and Rodley Nature Reserve, which both rely on the bridge for easy access.
The nature reserve has been closed to the public since early January to allow for work on the swing bridge ahead of 66 new homes being built on the adjacent Airedale Mills site, which has been disused for some years. The reserve has only this month started to trial limited opening hours on a Sunday.
Rodley Cricket Club: ‘Worrying’ delay
Chair of Rodley Cricket Club, Steven Bradbury, warned the logistical and financial impact of the delays on the club would be ‘immense’. He said:
“I am extremely concerned about the delay to the completion of the access bridge and the negative impact that this will have on Rodley Cricket Club.
“The senior season starts this weekend and runs through until mid-September. The extended closure period will include all the junior season. We have been unable to secure an alternative ground and will have to play at Rodley this summer or not play at all. Whether we can run all the junior coaching sessions, including the successful All Stars under 7s programme, is still to be determined.
“Notwithstanding the logistical difficulties in getting stock/supplies to the site and waste away from the club, we also have issues with some umpires and spectators (older parents/grandparents) being unable to walk along the canal.
“We are trying to communicate with our players, parents and opposition to car share as much as possible, but there will inevitably be an issue with parking. We have several events that we will not be able to host due to the logistical issue of getting equipment to the site and these include a mixture of community, club and charity fundraising events.
“The financial impact on us will be immense but equally worrying is the potential negative impact on our membership. As a club which has grown significantly in recent years and now running 10 teams while still recovering from the impact of Covid, we are unsure what the effect of the disruption will be on our senior and junior membership.”
Mr Bradbury said the club does not object to the principle of the housing development, but did submit an objection to the timing of the bridge replacement. He told WLD:
“We were originally advised that the bridge would be back in use in early May, which slipped to early June, but to have no vehicular access for virtually all the cricket season is much worse than we anticipated.
“In fairness, the developer has promised to improve access to the cricket club as part of the works and to cover any loss of income during the original closure period and we expect them to honour that agreement.”
Nature Reserve volunteers ‘upset’
Rodley Nature Reserve’s Jeremy Knapp said further delays in the scheme impacted both the wider community and the Reserve’s volunteers and was frustrated over the extended period of limited access to the site. He said:
“We are very upset at this extension. We will try and find a way of accommodating things with limited access and will continue to carry out our habitat work, but we are highly disappointed.
“It seems quite clear that the bridge was removed before all the relevant permissions and designs were in place. Our main aim with the development is to make sure that both the nature reserve and the River Aire corridor are preserved.”
A statement on the Reserve’s website added:
“Currently the Trust has no detailed information about the reason for the delay but has been assured that the developer is preparing a revised proposal. The Trust is working closely with local councillors, Leeds City Council planning officers and Yorkshire Water to ensure rapid progress is made to protect the interests of the Reserve, its users and local communities.”
The Sunday opening will continue for a trial period, with access via the canal towpath.
Labour councillors in Bramley & Stanningley and Calverley & Farsley Wards – Cllrs Peter Carlill, Caroline Gruen, Jools Heselwood and Kevin Ritchie – issued the following statement:
“We are extremely concerned about the delays and further complications with the replacement of the bridge.
“Before commencement of any works to the bridge, the developers were required to provide a timetable of works and full details of the replacement bridge for approval by the planning department. This was to allow the design, function and safety of the bridge to be checked ahead of the works, to allow comment by other stakeholders, iron out any issues, and to allow the planning department to discuss alternative access arrangements.
“It is our understanding that this didn’t happen and they removed the existing bridge without permission – putting them in breach of the planning conditions on their outline development, and causing a totally unnecessary delay along the way while the design and operation of the new bridge is reviewed.
“There was also an expectation that they should have consulted with the nature reserve and the cricket club regarding the timetable, however we understand both were given details of when works were starting at short notice and not consulted in a meaningful way.
“As ward councillors we will be doing whatever we can to minimise the delay to the replacement bridge, assist the other parties affected, and to seek alternative access in the meantime.
“To touch on the wider development, currently the site, which sits within the Bramley and Stanningley ward, has outline planning permission only. A detailed planning application has been submitted by a different party and is expected to be determined at a plans panel meeting later in the year.”
Residents can view the details of the full application and make comments online at https://publicaccess.leeds.gov.uk and search for reference 21/09266/RM.
Conservative Calverley & Farsley councillors Amanda and Andrew Carter have also been looking into the issue. Posting on social media, they said:
“The replacement bridge is being undertaken by Dynamic Capital. Quite clearly insufficient thought was given to how this bridge was to be delivered, how it would operate in terms of opening and closing, and appropriate guarantees of access.
“This is the subject of ongoing debate at the moment. Why it was not properly thought out in the first place beggars belief.
“Both myself and Councillor Amanda Carter have insisted that from now on we are fully consulted and engaged in discussions. We have pointed out in the strongest possible terms that it is our residents in the village of Rodley who are most concerned and affected by this development, although the site itself is in the Bramley and Stanningley ward.”
Developer: “We are trying our best’
Ilkley-based developer Dynamic Capital and Investments has outline planning permission for the site, which includes replacing the swing bridge and carrying out road works to ensure access to the next stage of the development, which is proposed to be housing.
Work was initially expected to take a couple of months, then went up to five months – but this could now stretch to eight months.
Alan Poysser, a chartered engineer representing Dynamic Capital, admitted: ‘we’re looking at August at the moment’ but stressed they were doing all they can to minimise disruption to the community.
He suggested changes to the design of the bridge in January were the main reason for the delay. The bridge is now due to include electrical components, as opposed to being purely manual.
“I understand the concerns of the both the cricket club and nature reserve and we are working to get the scheme completed as soon as we can. It’s the changing of the design in January, at the request of the Canal and River Trust and Yorkshire Water, which has caused problems.”
My Poysser said that the old bridge was ‘near the end of its life’ and ‘not in a good condition’ and the new bridge would last for the next 120 years.
“This will be a significant upgrade on the one that was previously there and they will benefit from that bridge immeasurably,” My Poysser said. “The abutments [the substructure at the end of a bridge span which support it] had moved, meaning it was difficult for people to open the swing bridge.
“Had the bridge failed and we hadn’t come along with this proposal, people might have been looking at a year to 18 months without a working bridge.”
My Poysser liaises between Dynamic Capital and the contractor for the work, Guildford-based Land and Water Services Ltd. He said Dynamic Capital had offered to cover any financial loss to the cricket club and reserve but conceded that there was a lot of work left to do on the site.
More traffic modelling needed
Local councillors have been looking into the delays, and say that the developer is required to provide further information to the council’s planning department. This includes traffic modelling as it will take longer than anticipated to operate the new-look bridge, which may have knock-on effects for both traffic accessing the site and canal traffic.
In December developers Cash By Moda and Carrick Construction applied for full and detailed planning permission for 66 homes on the Airedale Mills site, an application which could be considered by councillors at plans panel next month. WLD revealed last month that three West Leeds councillors have raised their concerns over the proposals.
Note: This article was updated on Tuesday, 26 April 2022 with comments from local councillors.