Can Guiseley afford the price of development?

Wharfedale Observer: Campaigners: Baclk row (left to right) are David Sugden, Kate Darley, Alex Haddy; in front are Joanna Sugden, Mariboi Delapena and Debbie Aithison. Buy this photo » Campaigners: Baclk row (left to right) are David Sugden, Kate Darley, Alex Haddy; in front are Joanna Sugden, Mariboi Delapena and Debbie Aithison.

On the face of it, the chance of 90 new jobs for Guiseley would appear to be good news for the town, but many people are less than happy with the proposal to build 82 homes and a 75-bed care home.

Whatever the benefits of the scheme itself, there is a widely-held view in Guiseley that the town just cannot cope with any more development.

With a whole series of schemes over the years in and around the area, you don't have to look far to see why so many people feel so opposed to yet another development.

So, when long-established Guiseley company Abraham Moon put forward plans to develop land opposite its factory on Netherfield Road, the scheme was not exactly welcome in many quarters.

For many people it was simply a development too far, and the strength of feeling was such that a campaign group - Guiseley Against Over-Development - was set up.

The group was initially formed in response to the original proposal by Moon's to build 117 homes.

But even though the scheme has been changed to try to accommodate the views of local people - and the company stresses its commitment to the local area - the group remains opposed to the new plans.

With about ten core members and interest and help from around 30 other people, the group is well organised, with its own website.

It argues that the sheer volume of new development is affecting the quality of life for local people and, as a number of approved schemes are still not completed, members say it is impossible to assess the impact those developments would have, let alone put new ones into the mix.

Joanna Sugden, one of the founders of the group, said: "When Moon's submitted their plans, the strength of feeling was such that we decided to form an action group to gather local support and collectively lobby the politicians.

"Our view is that enough is enough. Netherfield Road, and indeed the whole A65 corridor, has taken such a hit in terms of development and it is time to take stock.

"We do not understand how an assessment can be made of the impact of any new proposal when so many of the local developments are not yet built, let alone occupied. We are also not convinced that there is a demand for these types of properties in this area.

"We are not against development per se," added Joanna. "Indeed, we understand that development needs to happen and, in many cases, will be in the best interests of the local community. However, we are calling on local politicians to work with local people and Leeds City Council officers to develop a clear and considered approach to the sustainable development of the Guiseley area.

"We know from living here ourselves and from the responses we have received to our publicity, over-development not only changes the practicalities of life for people (getting a parking space at Morrisons, getting on the train, driving through the gridlocked streets etc), but it also changes the atmosphere of the place. People begin to feel pressured, angry and frustrated. That whole road rage' culture starts to become the norm.

"It does not seem right that our whole way of life and quality of life should be compromised by the endless approval of planning applications so that every bit of available land is developed."

Joanna said the group was focussing its efforts at the moment on the Moon development and has asked MP Paul Truswell and Coun Graham Latty to be involved in any work shaping and identifying priorities as part of a local development plan.

Coun Latty has pledged his support to the group and has arranged a public meeting in conjunction with Joanna to discuss the issue.

The meeting will take place at Guiseley Methodist Church between 7pm and 9pm on Thursday February 28.

Coun Latty has already expressed strong opposition to the scheme.

He said: "I am a great believer in the power of public groups. People can see that other ordinary people' are sitting up and taking notice and saying these are our places and we don't want this to happen.

"I applaud this group and support it and will do everything I can to help it."

Paul Truswell also pledged his support.

He said: "It was inevitable that local people would object to this site being brought forward given the recent history of development in Guiseley, and I will be supporting their objections. Even though the council long since earmarked the site for housing and recently confirmed in its Unitary Development Plan that it might be developed after 2012, it is still perceived as a piece of scarce green space.

"It demonstrates why, for many years, we have desperately needed a robust local plan for the area and why I have continued to demand one. They are being implemented in other parts of the city and even now this area would benefit from one.

"By my reckoning, even on past and projected housing target figures Guiseley has already had very much more than its fair share and deserves proper recognition of this fact. The council ought to be working with local people on a robust planning framework to address their concerns.

"A proper action plan would be based on public consultation and provide a framework of what the area and its communities could reasonably sustain," said Mr Truswell.

"The council has known for years about the intended development of major Guiseley sites such as High Royds, the former YEB site on Back Lane and even the one opposite Moon's. That is why it should have had such a plan to deal with their impact and all the other developments that have been opportunistically thrust on the community over the last decade. Instead, it has allowed piecemeal development of sites."

It is perhaps unfortunate for Abraham Moon that its application comes at a time when many residents feel the area has already been over-saturated with developments.

The company's managing director, John Walsh, says that the company needs to develop the land to help pay for a £10 million investment programme for the factory.

He has stressed that the revenue from the sale of the land is vital to enable the company to invest in machinery and new product development in order to remain competitive.

The company has always insisted that it wants to take the views of local people into account.

When the revised plans were announced, Mr Walsh said: "When we held the public consultations some people were sceptical as to whether we would listen to their views. I hope the revised plans demonstrate that we did take their comments and feedback seriously and have tried to accommodate them as much as we can."

And in a statement issued this week, the company said: "As we have outlined previously, Abraham Moon has been providing jobs and boosting the local economy of Guiseley for 170 years. However, the industry is becoming more and more competitive especially from overseas manufacturers.

"In order to safeguard jobs Abraham Moon needs to continue to invest heavily in the factory, hence the reason why the company has applied for planning on this land which is already allocated for residential purposes.

"Some people continue to question the company's commitment to Guiseley, citing the fact that Silver Cross relocated shortly after planning was granted on their former site. It is wholly unfair to suggest that Abraham Moon will do the same as its commitment to remain in Guiseley is as strong as ever.

"However, this is not guaranteed if we are unable to develop the land and thereby realise the funds necessary for the investment.

"Abraham Moon has endeavoured to do everything right by having public consultations, listening to residents' views and revising the plans accordingly.

"Of course, we understand there are issues with those residents on Greenshaw Terrace as their houses look onto the proposed development. However, we have sought to mitigate the effect by replacing two three-storey residential blocks adjacent to their homes with a care home within its own landscaped gardens.

"When so many other employers have left the town, Abraham Moon is totally committed to manufacturing in Guiseley, safeguarding its existing 165 employees and potentially creating a further 90 new jobs at the proposed care home."

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