“When something people love is in danger, they will stand up and be counted” said Cllr Graham Latty tonight, as nearly 200 people packed the Emmott Arms at Rawdon to hear WARD Chairman David Ingham, Pudsey MP Stuart Andrew, Leeds NW MP Greg Mulholland, and nine councillors, tell local people about the danger local beauty spot, Rawdon Billing, was in from developers.
Leeds University students mixed with solicitors, jewellers, farmers and pensioners, all aghast that Leeds would even consider listing the Billing – green belt land which was given to the people of Rawdon for exercise and air in 1936 – as a potential development site. “People live here because of the country” said one upset lady, ” what about our rights to enjoy what we have worked hard for.” “There will be no countryside left soon, when do we join up with Bradford” said another, “peoeple need more than a house”!
As the meeting swapped question and answers, the snippets started to build a picture of an historic landscape, whose income was supposed to go to the poor children of Rawdon, now owned by the ‘shadowy’ Rawdon Trust, who has seen an opportunity in the current economic climate, to ‘turn a substantial buck’ for people who had no connection with the area at all. This, combined with the incompetence of Leeds Planning department, whose lack of local plan had left the city environs vulnerable to developer attack, was what had led to Savills now offering the site for sale to a buyer who could get planning permission for it. It seems that the clogged up A65, the lack of school places, the overburdened doctors and dentists, are of no consequence.
Members of Menston Action Group, with experience of similar battles, told the meeting to form an Action Group quickly and start fighting now. Village green applications, research on useage, public consultation, and networking to raise awareness – all would be tools with which to ‘fight back’. Cllr Brian Cleasby, explained what was being done on designating footpaths, whilst David Ingham also pressed the point with Cllrs Latty and Collins that Aireborough needed a neighbourhood forum to start shaping it’s own future with a local plan. The meeting asked for volunteers for both. ” We will not see a single brick laid on that site” stated Greg Mulholland, “and to stop it, we have to organize and do it professionally. We are luck to have WARD ready to help us do that.”
The energy in the Emmott Arms at the end of the evening was probably far more than a wind turbine produces on a gusty day. Volunteers, and offers of help poured forth. Not only are the people of Aireborough up for a fight to save their ‘inheritance’, but they can see the positive benefits of having a local plan. What is very clear though, is that so many people have been left in the dark, whilst an incompetent council quietly fulfils it’s statutory obligation to identify development land, by signing away the ‘birthright’ of rural communities, and filling the pockets of rapacious speculators.