“Many quests start with a threat, or an opportunity, whose chances of success often seem pretty slim. It is in accepting the quest that the adventure takes off. The venturer never knows how they are going to succeed, but they are willing to try.”
The six member Founder Group met in November 2010, bringing together the concerns of several community groups, and agreed that an umbrella group was needed to provide coordination, focus and research capacity: thus, WARD was conceived.
The first formal meeting with MPs, Councillors, and representatives of community groups was held on 22 January 2011. The outcome was that three MPs made representations to the Secretary of State for Communities & Local Government concerning the inequities of current planning law, and the need for a ‘level playing field’ to be created in The Localism Bill.
The first WARD task was then to establish the extent of housing developments in the Aire and Wharfe Dales, that would rely on daily travel to the major employment centres of Leeds and Bradford; plus additional research into the limited capacity and overcrowding of commuter routes by both road and rail.
In February 2011 WARD attended the planning Appeal for Moon’s Field in Guiseley and made presentations to the Planning Inspector, regarding the adverse effects of further congestion on the A65 and the Wharfedale Line if the additional 98 dwellings were constructed. Unfortunately, the Inspector ruled in favour of the developer on the basis of extremely questionable evidence regarding traffic flows and potential rail service improvement. Notwithstanding the Inspector’s ruling, WARD gained widespread favourable publicity for their work.
The next campaign to support was the Clariant and Riverside sites at Horsforth. In March 2011, WARD representatives made presentations at the Planning Panel, and succeeded in persuading a majority of Councillors to reject the plans in their current form. However, the developer, Harrow Estates (part of Redrow Homes), took the matter to Appeal – which they won in March 2012, making a sham of the concept of sustainability.
Evidencing the Real Issues
It was now becoming apparent that the A65 and several feeder roads were already over capacity for effective traffic flow, yet, developers were claiming in expert evidence that these roads still had peak time capacity . In order rebut this evidence, WARD commissioned an independent professional Traffic Survey funded by subscription.
Other, evidence to help in planning applications regarding the number of outstanding planning consents was also gathered together. This showed the scandalous situation where, in the case of Leeds, 22,500 dwellings had been approved for construction, yet only 2,238 were constructed in the year ending 31 March 2010. Thus, Leeds had given consent for 10 times more housing units than developers were disposed to build. Yet they continue to press, and succeed at each Appeal, for the release of greenfield sites. In the case of Bradford, the Council’s Annual Monitoring Report for 2010 stated explicitly that it had a sufficient number of consents already agreed (16,931) to meet its Housing Supply Target (2,700 per annum) for 6.27 years. The same Report showed that only 999 net new dwellings were completed in 2010, yet Bradford MDC continues to permit developers to apply for consent on greenfield sites such as at Menston.
In mid 2011 WARD affiliated to the Campaign for the Protection of Rural England, as the aims and objectives of the two organisations are similar and compatible.
Two further MP and community representative workshops were held in May and October 2011 to bring information and expertise together and to progress the strategy of lobbying for changes to planning laws which favour the developer and disenfranchise community groups.
Strengthing Capabilities and Co-creation
During the latter part of 2011 and early 2012 WARD has continued to gather local groups together under it’s umbrella and promote their cause; lobbied for changes to the draft National Planning Policy Framework with local MP’s; responded to Bradford Local Development Framework (LDF); formed relationships with Leeds University for spatial planning research; and is currently setting up a Neighbourhood Forum for Aireborough.