How can this have happened? Two productive farms, sandwiched between Menston and the moors, now have planning permission for two housing estates? This land was greenbelt in Bradford’s UDP; its development will force 2,400 traffic movements per day down narrow, congested, lanes and past our village school.
That is just the start. Local geology means this land is liable to flood; so concerned were residents that we pooled funds for a Flood Risk Assessment. However, its damning findings were totally ignored by the planning officer’s report. Instead, they used desk top calculations based on national averages. Menston properties now face serious flooding, yet the decision panel, led by Councillor Shabir Hussain, told us ‘this was not a planning matter’!!
Nor, do our tribulations end there. Our Dale no longer offers any significant employment; Menston, a village, has no secondary schools: travel for work and education is a necessity. Already at peak hours, our trains are dangerously overloaded, and the A65 near gridlock: it can take two hours to travel the ten miles to Leeds. Three hundred extra family houses can only intensify the travel misery.
I contemplate this situation with dread, a sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach. For fighting for our families’ wellbeing we are denounced as ‘middle class’ NIMBY’s by Bradford’s housing policy executive Councillor Val Slater. Yet, the real issue lies entrenched in the relationship between developers’ desire to build where it is most profitable, and a weak Local Planning Authority prone to developers who whisper inducements in their ear.
Bradford’s stated policy is brownfield regeneration first; but, brownfield is unattractive to developers. To circumvent the policy, they obtain planning permission on brownfield sites and landbank them; effectively removing them from ‘circulation’ and prolonging city deprivation. They then speculatively take out binding purchase options on green field sites; subsequently challenging this status in the cause of Bradford’s unsubstantiated housing targets. Inducements help the process; party political councillors carry it through. The irony being, the houses are not brought by the homeless of Bradford.
This is just the start for Wharfedale. Bradford’s local development framework threatens many villages with bulldozers and concrete; Cllr Slater has promised developers she will ‘lock horns’ with us to ensure it happens. To her aid will come the Government’s national planning policy framework with its presumption in favour of ostensible ‘sustainable development’. The Fox has been gifted the keys to the hen house, and our councillors are trading green England acre by acre.
Graham Booth, Menston Action Group & WARD: 01943 496569 and Jennifer Kirkby, WARD 01943 878046