Experts could see if town can cope with new homes

Wharfedale Observer: Experts could see if town can cope with new homes Experts could see if town can cope with new homes

Otley could commission its own report to see whether the town is ready to cope with more than 1,100 new homes.

The Town Council’s planning and development committee voted unanimously to look into commissioning an impact assessment.

The move would involve experts examining everything from existing and projected traffic levels to the ability of schools and health services to deal with an expected 20 per cent hike in Otley’s population.

The results could then be used as evidence to argue for proper infrastructure improvements to be carried out in the town before any significant new housing is built.

Campaign group Otley Development Disgrace has hailed the move. A spokesman said: “The announcement from the town council that they will be seeking an impact assessment for Otley of the proposed 20 per cent increase in size on our infrastructure and transport links is warmly welcomed. We will be pleased to work with them to help ‘scope’ the assessment and share their view that the results will help shape more appropriate development for our town.”

Councillor Carl Morris (Lab, Manor), however, is warning that a substantial funding hurdle will need to be cleared first, as the assessment is expected to cost between £10,000 and £15,000.

Coun Morris, who put the proposal before the council this week, said: “We’ve known for some time now that negotiations over infrastructure are going to be central to the ongoing development saga in Otley.

“Developers will want to put up cheaply built housing with as little community investment as possible – but if we’re going to have to cope with our share of national housing targets, then let’s at least make sure we don’t let the developers walk all over us.

“An impact assessment would be an important body of evidence when it comes to negotiating with developers.

“It won’t come cheap and we can’t make any promises at this stage. But we’re going to do what we can to find the money.”

He added that the findings could prove crucial in negotiations to have any East of Otley relief road upgraded to a full bypass.

Most of the proposed new houses are expected to spring up on the town’s eastern edge.

The town council argued strongly for proper infrastructure investment in its submission to Leeds City Council’s Site Allocation Plan last year.

More than 200 people turned out to a recent meeting held by Otley Development Disgrace to air fears about the scale of proposed housing over the next 15 years, as earmarked in the Local Development Framework.

The group has repeatedly warned that such development, without major investment in the town’s infrastructure, would be unsustainable.

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