Rodley housing plans: ‘Catastrophe’ feared if ambulances can’t get across broken bridge

The Airedale Mills site in Rodley.

By David Spereall

Campaigners fear a “catastrophe” if a malfunctioning bridge providing access to potential new homes in west Leeds is not fixed.

Developers want to build 67 properties close to Rodley Nature Reserve, on the site of the old Airedale Mills textile factory, which has been demolished.

But a new swing bridge linking the site to the other side of the Leeds and Liverpool Canal, has failed to open properly several times since it was installed last month, leaving cars and pedestrians stranded for hours at a time.

The bridge is either up to allow boats and barges on the canal to pass, or down to allow pedestrians and traffic across.

The applicants behind the potential development said the contractor was “working hard” to fix the problem.

The new troublesome swing bridge linked to the Airedale Mills development. Picture courtesy of Leeds City Council/YouTube.

But residents and councillors say they’re deeply worried about emergency services being unable to get across the bridge, and leaving sick tenants stranded.

Speaking at a planning meeting on Thursday, where the issue was discussed, retired engineer and Rodley resident Keith Lambert, said the bridge was “completely inadequate”.

He told councillors: “The bridge has been badly designed and manufactured. It’s got no chance of lasting 120 years as we’re told it’s got to do.

“If this bridge fails at any time in future – which it will and it has done numerous times already – and the emergency services can’t get there, then that will be a catastrophe.”

Calverley and Farsley councillor Andrew Carter (Cons), whose ward borders the site, said residents had “quite rightly bombarded” elected members with complaints about the bridge.

Urging a plans panel to reject the scheme in its current form, he said: “If someone falls ill on this site then they will literally be on an island. I wouldn’t like that risk on my shoulders.

“The council has a duty of care here.”

Cllr Kevin Ritchie (Lab, Bramley & Stanningley) also said he didn’t support there scheme and called for developers to improve their £25,000 offer to improve Rodley Park.

Outline planning permission to develop the site, which has been empty since the 1970s, was given by Leeds City Council in 2019.

Under that agreement, contractors were supposed to replace the old swing bridge linking Moss Bridge Road with Town Street in Bramley, on the other side of the water.

Although the job was supposed to be done last year, it was not until last month that the new bridge was installed.

Rodley Nature Reserve trustee Jerry Knapp said the gates flanking the bridge failed to open two weeks ago, leaving drivers stuck on both sides.

He said visitors to the reserve had to be “evacuated” via a farmer’s field, because it was an over an hour before the problem was resolved.

The meeting was told that field will be out of bounds, however, if the homes are built, leaving the bridge as the sole access point for the whole site.

Speaking on behalf of developers Casa by Moda, planning agent Mark Lane said: “While the applicant is not responsible for the delivery of the bridge, we’re aware that the constractor is working very hard to resolve these issues.”

Consultant Alan Poyser, speaking on behalf of Dynamic Capital and Investments Ltd, who are responsible for the bridge at present, admitted he’d had “heated conversations” with the contractor over the time it had taken to install the bridge.

But he insisted the problems would be resolved soon.

“While not diminishing the concern, (the likelihood of failure in the future) is very small,” he told councillors. “The bridge will be annually inspected so wear and tear can be anticipated in advance.”

Meeting chair Councillor Eileen Taylor said talk about the bridge was a ‘distraction’ and said focus needed to be on the housing plans.

Objections to the development have also come from trustees of the nature reserve, who are concerned about the impact of construction on wildlife.

Councillors also expressed reservations about the layout and design of the proposed houses, as well as on the proposed levels of car parking linked to the development.

Mr Lane, for the developers, insisted the plans were “high quality” and provide much-needed housing for the area.

Although council officers recommended the finer details of the scheme be approved, after almost three hours of debate councillors voted to defer making a decision, to allow for further discussions between council officers to take place.

Issues included the layout and design of the site, off-site parking and the lack of a meaningful green space contribution. The application will come back to councillors at a future date.



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