OTLEY people are being urged to have their say on a major housing development for the town.

A consultation has been launched on the East of Otley development which includes 550 homes.The scheme has sparked controversy amid concerns over its impact on local green space and infrastructure.

Now councillors and the town’s MP are urging residents to make their views known before a planning application is submitted.

Town councillor Mick Bradley is encouraging all Otley residents to take part.

He said: "This is not the formal Leeds consultation, which will follow the planning application, expected late February, but it does provide a useful opportunity, now, to tell the ‘Otley East Consortium’, including the developer, Persimmon and Leeds City Council, what existing residents want and expect from this major development, which eventually will include at least 550 homes."

He said local people have a chance to share their views and influence the planning application especially if they are concerned about wildlife and biodiversity, ensuring that the large development would improve town facilities and making sure the development was built as a model of low-carbon housing.

"Nobody wants to lose the existing open green space we now enjoy indeed it needs to expand as the number of residents will grow, but green corridors will only be protected if public demand is strong enough and well demonstrated. Unfortunately, the ‘Masterplan’, as shown in the consultation, sees public rights of way more as a ‘constraint’, whilst wildlife and biodiversity are barely considered. This is despite the ongoing biodiversity crisis and commitments made through Leeds City Council policy, and through our Otley Neighbourhood Plan," he said.

“The housing to be built in ‘character areas’ will, say the Consortium ‘where possible incorporate innovative design techniques that are resilient to the consequences of climate change.’ The key words here are, unfortunately, ‘where possible’. It is perfectly possible today to build houses which are low carbon, highly insulated and consequently very cheap to heat, but they would be a departure from the sorts of homes Persimmon and other large developers have built to date. We will need to push hard to achieve a flagship, sustainable development that Otley can be proud of."

The three ward councillors for Otley are making it clear they do not support the proposals and they have expressed concerns about the consultation process.

“Many residents are rightly concerned having received a consultation leaflet with regard to proposed developments east of Otley”, said Cllr Sandy Lay.

“This seems to have been produced by a planning consultant Johnson Mowatt and the local Councillors have had no input into this leaflet nor were they involved in the decision to send it out."

Cllr Colin Campbell said:“Councillors are of the view that the leaflet is poor in content, poor in detail and inaccurate."

He added: "The decision on consultation has not included local stakeholders and should not have been sent to homeowners without further discussion and changes. We also believe that the proposed consultation is premature whilst discussions continue regarding not just the masterplan but also the detail of the site."

Cllr Ryk Downes added: "We appreciate that because the site is in the City Counci'ls development framework as a housing allocation it is difficult to resist the principle of development. But any development which takes place should reflect local residents views expressed in the neighbourhood plan and be designed to the highest possible environmental standards."

Leeds North West MP Alex Sobel is also urging local people to look closely at what is being proposed and to make their views know.

He said:“The East of Otley development is not a new proposition but since the issue around the road has been largely resolved, I would expect to see a planning application put in from the developers in the near future. It is important to note that the consultation put forward by Persimmon is not the statutory consultation that any planning application would have to be subject to through the council."

Mr Sobel does not believe the two week consultation period is long enough and he has written to Persimmon calling for it to be extended.

He said: "As I will be making a submission to the process myself, I have been asking residents to get in touch to help me to shape the issues that I will raise. I have certainly heard several concerns around green space, build quality and affordability as well as deep anxiety around the impact on Otley’s infrastructure. I have also met recently with Otley 2030 as we share the view that any new housing should set an example of the high quality development that is needed to meet our obligations to the climate.

"I hope that readers of the Wharfedale Observer will get in touch with me to share their views. ”

Peter Smith, a local resident who was involved in the former East of Otley Residents Association originally set up in 2005 to oppose the development said Otley residents were furious about the new plans - which he says show little respect for the green space provision in Leeds City Council's site allocations plan.

He said a contentious area was the former Ings rubbish tip, a field now used for exercise and dog-walking. He said the plans devote a 0.6 hectare strip of the field to housing plus a road, and a further portion to be annexed into an adjoining area behind Cambridge Drive for the provision of a school.

Mr Smith added:“This is a blatant contravention of the site allocation plan which was adopted in 2019. Since the first public inquiry in 2007, the former Ings Tip has never been part of the site allocation for development.

“In 2019 Persimmon tried to persuade the inspectorate to allocate part of the site for employment but this was rejected and the field remained excluded from the development allocation for both housing and employment and retained as green space with the potential for being ameliorated.

“The adopted plan clearly defines the whole of the Ings site as green space, bordered on two sides by Peterhouse Drive and Cambridge Drive, and around the other two by a ditch.

“The health risks and abnormal costs involved in digging up such a site would be enormous and particularly unpleasant for adjacent residents and, in this case, would be a direct breach of the adopted plan, making a mockery of the whole planning process.”

A public announcement about the consultation said:"Ahead of the submission of a formal planning application the Otley East Consortium are delighted to invite you to view early plans for ‘Otley East’ -an exciting new mixed-use scheme, complete with new relief road, on land to the East of Otley. The application site is allocated by Leeds City Council for housing, employment, a new two-form entry primary school, elderly housing and greenspace/open space associated with a major housing proposal. The allocation brings with it a major road scheme (East of Otley Relief Road). It is our intention to submit a hybrid planning application to the Local Planning Authority seeking full detailed planning permission for the relief road, the first phase of residential development, the relocation of the sports training pitches, landscaping and open space and outline planning permission for the balance of the allocation. A Public Consultation event is taking place between 15th and 29th January 2021."

Visit www.otleyeast.co.uk for details.