A CONTROVERSIAL application to build a new road and hundreds of houses on the outskirts of Otley has been paused in a dramatic development.

Leeds City Council has announced it is ‘pausing’ the East of Otley hybrid planning application "to consider how the proposals can be developed further to address the issues and concerns raised".

Further consultation is now expected to take place in November.

The move follows widespread criticism of the scheme and a massive campaign led by the East Of Otley Action Group and The ODD Campaign.

Close to 1000 objections were submitted on the Leeds City Council planning portal last summer.

A spokesperson for Otley 2030, said: “We are aware that there will be a significant delay to a decision and take this news as a positive reaction to the fantastic public campaign facilitated by East of Otley Action Group, The ODD Campaign and Wildlife Friendly Otley, supported by Otley Town Council. We will be consulting with our membership and taking appropriate advice about how and when the application might be re-presented with a public consultation and a brand new application (rather than simply as a late decision). Given the close association of the three applications (East of Otley, Otley Rugby Club and McArthy Stone development) we will campaign for them to be brought back as linked applications.”

Otley 2030 says it will continue to keep a close eye on any activity in the proposed development area and will also develop alternative proposals for housing development in the SAP area. These plans will acknowledge and meet Leeds’ need for appropriately-priced and sustainable housing whilst also meeting those of the climate emergency and respecting the imperative for biodiversity regeneration and net gain.

A Wildlife Friendly Otley spokesperson said:"The pause here shows what a shambles the original planning application was. We called for it to be withdrawn saying it was an unsustainable scheme that would devastate wildlife - it ignored the Otley Neighbourhood Plan and any concern for the local environment and wildlife. It even conflicted with Leeds City Council's own ambitions to tackle the climate emergency.

“We thank all the hundreds of Otley people who submitted objections. We hope that the developers and Leeds City Council use this time now to engage with the local community so when and if a new plan appears next year it reflects people's concerns and objections and with some serious measures to protect local wildlife.”

Otley and Yeadon councillors Colin Campbell, Ryk Downes and Sandy Lay have welcomed the news that the controversial proposals for a road and between 500 and 700 houses have been put on hold for further consultation.

"Councillors and residents have expressed concern about the way the original ill thought out proposals were pushed forward," said Cllr Campbell. "We have been calling for the plans to be paused for some time. this would give residents the chance to properly comment and shape a development which benefits Otley."

Cllr Downes added:"The original proposals had many serious flaws. The proposed road did not meet the council's design guide, it would have destroyed irreplicable habitat, chopped down ancient trees and cut the route for the proposed Wharfedale Greenway. It would also have increased traffic in the town centre with little evidence of other appropriate means of travel."

Cllr Lay said:"We would like to express our thanks to everyone who raised concerns about the original proposal. Without their well argued concerns a totally unsuitable development would have been foisted on Otley. We are asking for guarantees that the new consultation scheduled for next November will be meaningful and follow the Council's own guidelines for public consultation."

On behalf of Otley Town Council, Chair Richard Hughes said that the council was pleased that Leeds Planning Authority had listened to the concerns raised by Otley’s residents who have been rightly worried about the development. The council itself raised a 28-page list of concerns. He said the town council had always argued for meaningful consultation that allows residents to ensure that any development which takes place respects the environment and benefits the town.

Otley councillor Mick Bradley said: " As a Danefield town councillor I welcome news of a delay in the East of Otley planning application, until at least November. There were so many things wrong with the original application that it should have been withdrawn. If the scheme is to proceed at all (and it appears preparation for the relief road is continuing) then a fresh application and a fresh consultation should occur.

"The East of Otley Action Group deserves much credit here for organising such a strong response to the application. Equally Otley 2030 has done fantastic work developing a serious alternative exemplar development which l would urge Leeds City Council and the developers Persimmon to seriously consider."

MP Alex Sobel was one of those who put in an objection about the scheme last year. This week he said there was understandable anxiety in the town as to the status of the East of Otley Development and he said he was hoping to meet with Leeds City Council officers in the coming weeks to discuss the issue.

He added: "I had major concerns over the detail of the plan brought forward last year, particularly on the quality of houses, the infrastructure, green space as well as the number of affordable and social houses. It is my view that there needs to be a lot more thinking before the plan would be acceptable to me and the wider community. If there is to be a delay, then I hope we will see a better plan brought forward that better reflects our priorities."

Otley Town Councillor for Danefield Ward, Richard Davies said:"It is heartening to hear that there is likely to be a 12 month delay in the East of Otley application to enable LCC to take account of the huge amount of objections from organisations and residents in Otley. If true, this is a testimony to the quality of the feedback and our desire for developments to benefit the town not just developers."

A Leeds City Council spokesperson said: “The East of Otley Development application has resulted in significant public comments, and we would like to thank all those that have commented up to this stage. As a result of this feedback, in discussion with the Local Planning Authority, it has been agreed that determination of the application will be paused to consider how the proposals can be developed further to address the issues and concerns raised. It is currently anticipated that further consultation on changes to the application is likely to take place in November 2022.”