Join the WARD network to oppose building of ‘Leedsford’

The Bradford Local Development Framework (LDF) has caused uproar across Wharfedale, and drawn sharp criticism from Leeds Councillors who’ve caustically dubbed the proposed ‘new town’ ‘Leedsford’. Community groups are calling for a co-ordinated ‘fight against the proposals’ that will irrevocably change the character of the area: a role that the now highly experienced WARD network, which includes four local MP’s, are poised to take on.

In Autumn 2011, Bradford Metropolitan District Council launched the public consultation period for its development plans. The plans – to bulldoze over green fields and destroy the separate identities of villages, gridlock the A65, and overload local health and education services, as no public spending on such is planned – have stirred anger with a multitude of community groups across Wharfedale and Airedale. This tidal wave of opposition led Ilkley Parish Councillor, Stephen Butler to call last week for “Local groups along the Wharfe Valley to join together to fight these proposals. All Parish and Town Councils should work together.”

Step forward WARD, the umbrella local community network group, which was set up in October 2010 to champion reform of planning legislation along the A65 corridor, and co-ordinate community action from diverse groups in order to strengthen ‘the local voice’ and make sure it is heard; in Parliament if necessary. To date WARD has cut its fighting teeth on opposing unsustainable development in Airdale and Wharfedale, including Menston and Horsforth. Now, with this considerable experience in the Labyrinth of planning and local government, they are ‘on top form’ to co-ordinate the community challenge to Bradford on the LDF.

A key weapon in WARD’s armory is their independent research and the verification of data used in planning applications and appeals. A recent traffic study showed the A65 to have been operating over capacity since 2005. In the fight against the LDF the empirical challenge to the dubious statistics, issued by the government, purporting to show how many extra houses will be needed in Bradford by 2028 will be a cornerstone. Another benefit of the network is their ability to get local MPs in one room with councillors and local groups to focus on planning issues. Crucially to the LDF challenge is the pledges of support they have from six of the areas MP’s, as well as the local councillors for Guiseley and Rawdon. All of this puts WARD in a strong position to co-ordinate and voice at the highest level the ‘common community concerns’ about transport, water, energy, wellbeing, culture, education, health and the environment.

Chairman of WARD, Dr David Ingham, said “it is an ill wind that blows no good. The LDF has resulted in everyone now ‘singing from the same hymn sheet’ about this damaging unsustainable development. We would strongly encourage Parish and community groups keen on preserving the character of our area for our children to join the WARD network, and work together to effect reform of planning legislation in Parliament. The role of WARD is not to replace the community groups, but rather to facilitate a group response across the different areas of concern, and across a geographical area that is run by different local government organisations: it has been too easy in the past to ‘divide and conquer’. This is the only way we will redress the imbalance of the present system which is heavily stacked against local communities and allows developers unlimited rights of appeal when their applications are turned down by local councilors; whilst the community has no such rights, but has to live forever with the consequences.