Village action group hopeful after inquiry

170516  l to r..   John Richardson Chairman of Thorp Arch Parish Council, Bernard Crooks and Peter Locke all Members of the TAG Committee at Thorp Arch Estate and Retail Park.  (GL1010/10b)
For Ackrills.
170516 l to r.. John Richardson Chairman of Thorp Arch Parish Council, Bernard Crooks and Peter Locke all Members of the TAG Committee at Thorp Arch Estate and Retail Park. (GL1010/10b) For Ackrills.

Campaigners trying to stop a major housing development being built in their village say they are optimistic an appeal by the developers will be rejected.

A spokesman for Thorp Arch Trading Estate Action Group, known as TAG, voiced their opinion at the end of a five-week non determination public inquiry into the Rudgate Village planning application for over 874 houses on the former munitions site.

Developers Rockspring Hanover Property Unit Trust had appealed because they thought Leeds City Council was taking too long to make a decision on their application.

But the authority chose to fight the appeal as it deemed the plans premature, and should wait for the outcome of the Site Allocation Plan (SAP) process.

Peter Locke of TAG said: ”We are very optimistic that the appeal will be rejected.

“The TAG team have been working on opposition for four-and-a-half years, first successfully opposing a 2,000 house scheme, and now putting a forceful case to the Inquiry.

“TAG are very grateful for help provided with legal and planning during the Inquiry. The remaining years of effort were all done by our incredible team alone.”

As well as housing, the development on part of the Thorp Arch Trading Estate, would also include a 66-bed care home, primary school, convenience store, and small retail units.

The action group told the inquiry that their main concerns were the highways and accessibility.

But they added that contamination was a “big worry” and told the News: “In addition to explosives, the site seems to have been severely contaminated with asbestos from steam pipe lagging when the old site heating system was dismantled, and the pipes sent for scrap in the 1950s.

“TAG believes that over 50 tons of loose asbestos fibres, the most dangerous form of asbestos, were buried on site - but no one knows where.”

The action group told the inquiry that it did not believe Rockspring’s proposals for decontaminating the site, based on normal government guidelines, were appropriate for the former explosives site.

And the campaigners claimed that their evidence to the Inquiry also caused Rockspring to completely change their remediation plans, resulting in a £2 million increase in costs.

The proposed housing would need to be surrounded by high banks on two sides which TAG said create a fortress look with 13 feet high earth banks.

Leeds Council also voiced concerns about highways access to the estate, the poor public transport, and the lack of accessibility and facilities necessary to support a new community.

Following the inqurity, a Leeds City Council spokesman told the News: “The council has robustly defended its view at the inquiry that the application should be refused on a number of grounds, including accessibility and impact on the highway network, and delivery of affordable housing. We now await the Inspector’s decision.”

Rockspring Hanover declined to comment.

The Inspector’s report, expected to be finished around next March, will go to the Secretary of State, at his request, and a decision is not expected until mid 2018.