I have received a great many responses to the survey I put out last week and this has been a huge help in putting together my response to the consultation. It is important to note that as an MP, I have no statutory power over planning decisions but it is important that I reflect the concerns of the community, fight for our shared priorities and provide you with good and accurate information.
The land to the East of Otley was designated for development under the UDP in 2006, long before the current council administration was in place. There are several reasons that it has taken so long to see a planning application come forward. Land-owner negotiations can take some time and there was little agreement as to the provision of a relief road. These issues now being resolved, an outline plan has been put forward to the public by the Otley East consortium and its principal developer Persimmon Homes.
It is important to note that this consultation is ahead of any planning application and is not the statutory consultation process that the council are required to provide once the application has gone in.
This means that although there is no legal way for anyone, including Leeds City Council, to prevent development altogether, there are several avenues available to us to challenge the plans.
Last year, Otley’s Neighbourhood Plan won a huge mandate from residents, with almost 90% approval from the votes cast in the referendum, and is now statutory planning guidance. It provides a detailed set of guiding principles for the East of Otley site, that the developers must meet, including a comprehensive and detailed masterplan.
I believe that the plans put forward this week lack the detail, imagination and consideration necessary for the comprehensive masterplan that is required for a development of this size and significance.
The loss of green spaces is of great concern to people locally. These are areas where people walk their dogs, play games, have picnics or enjoy the diverse local wildlife. The plan as it exists does little to address these concerns, nor does it give any indication as to where play spaces might be. The plan must show clear biodiversity net gain and address any issues with drainage which could exacerbate existing flooding problems in the Wharfe.
There is a housing need in Otley. People contact my office at an alarming frequency, frustrated by the struggle to find adequate housing in the town, particularly social or rented family homes. Whilst the plan does mention “a percentage of affordable housing” it does not make good on the council’s requirement for 35% affordable housing. I am also concerned with some of the ‘example street scenes’ which show a large number of detached properties with several bedrooms. 35% should be a ceiling not a floor and any development of this size must not play lip service, but solve Otley’s housing crisis.
There has been a lot of concern regarding local infrastructure. What will the impact be on our local GP surgeries, secondary school places, roads and amenities? I would have hoped the outline masterplan would have addressed this and I have in my submission recommended that amenities are available within the new development, to reduce unnecessary car journeys into town and the pressure on services. Whilst I am satisfied that the relief road will go a long way in reducing congestion, we still do not understand the full impact on traffic. We need the developer to undertake a detailed traffic survey and modelling exercise.
The plan’s ‘example street scenes’ are not really linked to the character of existing Otley housing: stone housing examples are bland, red tiled roofs are inappropriate, and there are no examples to reflect or echo the white rendered finish of houses on Cambridge estate / Peterhouse Drive. Otley is an historic beautiful market town. Additional housing must be in keeping with those traditions and must look like Otley from the ground and from the top of the Chevin.
It is not just the style of the housing that is important. A development of this size must have the ambition to be an example for 21st century housing. Super insulation, heat pump technology and energy efficiency must run through the core of the plan. As must the upskilling of the workforce to ensure that houses are built to the highest standard.
With all the above questions left unanswered, the developers have clearly not met thee guiding principles in the Neighbourhood Plan. I urge you to take part in this and all future consultations on the development and make your voice heard on the issues that matter most to you. This is a significant challenge, but I believe that together we can make a big difference