First look at plans for new housing development near Rodley Nature Reserve - but it has already had some criticism

Construction is underway for a new housing development on the former Airedale Mills site in Rodley - but it has already faced some criticism.

By Rebecca Marano
Thursday, 3rd February 2022, 4:30 pm

Outline planning permission was granted back in 2019 to build 66 homes on the former textile mill just off Moss Bridge Road.

The 19th century mill structures were demolished in the late 2000s, and the brownfield site has stood vacant ever since.

Access to the proposed development site is from Rodley Town Street via a swing bridge over the Leeds-Liverpool canal.

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Full plans have been released showing proposals for a new housing development at Rodley. The Moss Bridge Road swing bridge, opposite Rodley Nature Reserve, is currently being upgraded as part of the plans. Photo: Bruce Rollinson

Work to replace the manually operated swing bridge, which currently only allows one vehicle to cross at a time, began in January 2022.

It has meant the temporary closure of the Rodley Nature Reserve, which lies on the former Rodley Water Treatment Works site, next to the proposed housing development.

​So what will the development look like?

The development will include a mixture of houses including semi-detached, detached, three groups of terraced houses and one bungalow.

This drawing shows the site of the plans from an aerial perspective and how the development would be laid out.

All the houses will vary in height to be two storey dwellings and three storey split-level units, save for the single bungalow

They have been designed to give the effect of fronting on to both the main access road and also the canal and towpath to the rear.

The homes will be built facing on to the canal, which is stepped back into the site to provide private garden areas.

An apartment building will also be built towards the entrance of the site. It will be the largest building within the development and will be four-storey in height.

These drawings show what the houses would like. Leeds Civic Trust said they look "very suburban".

The houses will be along the primary access road and then on a secondary cul-de-sac.

There will be a secondary access road at the northeast part of the development, the plans state.

Both main access roads serve additional shared surface parking courts, and private driveways.

A small car park is proposed in the northeast corner of the site to serve the apartment building. It is set to have 19 spaces.

This drawing shows what the apartments would look like.

What about the cost?

Due to the development being in the early stages, no specific costs for the houses have been released as of yet.

However, 10 of the houses houses are proposed as 'affordable', which was required in Section 106 by Leeds City Council planners.

The plans state that the affordable properties will be a mix of one and two bed apartments, and a mix of two and three bed dwellings

The units in question are split between 60 per cent social rent and 40 per cent submarket split, the report states.

What about protecting Rodley Nature Reserve?

The site was the former Airedale Mills textile mill. Photo: Bruce Rollinson

Due to the natural and scientific importance of the nature reserve, the outline planning consent required that an ecological buffer would be needed to be incorporated into the layout.

An eight-metre easement strip also was required, so that no houses or any other structures are built along the length of the River Aire riverbank.

In a letter submitted to council planners on behalf of the Rodley Nature Reserve Trust, concerns were raised about protecting the reserve.

It said: "The Trust does not raise objections to the application to build houses on this site but is motivated to protect the wildlife and biodiversity of the Rodley Nature Reserve and the local area (for its own sake and also for the benefit of the local community) by its concerns for the operation of the reserve."

Planners said the proposed layout incorporates a large area of green space and an ecology buffer at the eastern and southern edge of the site.

This in total measures 1.18 acres.

The Environment Agency said that due to the easement strip it has no objection on flood risk grounds.

However, the Trust said: "It is not made clear how this zone will be protected. The plans...do not detail how human ingress into this area is to be prevented.

"We have serious concern that residents may in time enter and modify this area, greatly detracting from its purpose as an ecological buffer.

"The river bank here is steep and dangerous but it is likely that if access is unfettered people may make paths or steps to the river and install boat landing or bathing areas. Both of these activities would deter wildlife

"If the ecology buffer is to be effective it is absolutely imperative that a secure fence is provided to prevent human access and interference. It is important that residents are not able to interfere with this zone. It is known that otters regularly use this bank and tree roots as resting places."

Other concerns included the disturbance of the buffer zone while construction is ongoing, responsibility for maintaining the new swing bridge and the omission in the planning report to domestic cats.

It said: "This is an important omission as the likely influx of cats will be seriously detrimental to the work of Rodley Nature Reserve in maintaining and improving the biodiversity of the reserve and the area in general.

"The reserve is home to a wide range of birds that nest on or near the ground making them very vulnerable to predation

"Around 1500 mice have been released in several stages over the last 8/9 years with evidence of successful breeding every year since the program started. Harvest mice are listed as

a Biodiversity Action Plan priority species.

"The Rodley colony is the only one for many miles and will be threatened by ingress of cats."

Where there any other comments or objections?

The Leeds Civic Trust raised concerns about the 'suburban' appearance of the scheme, parking, and whether it reflects the natural landscape nearby.

The Trust said: "We object to this scheme, which includes "landscape" as one of the reserved matters to be considered, but which does not contain any planting proposals.

"The layout should be guided by a clear landscape strategy which will integrate planting throughout the scheme with the existing landscape around it, encouraging wildlife corridors and prioritising tree cover

"The green space at the entrance to the scheme would appear to have no positive use. Its functionality is compromised by the design of the road bisecting it

"In general the style of building design is rather suburban and does not reflect its prime location in a landscape setting. We would have hoped to have seen something a little more adventurous here, that integrates well with its landscape setting."

A neighbour in Rock Lane, Bramley, raised concerns that the development would be an "open invitation for other land owners bordering the canal/river in this section of the Aire valley to make applications.".

The person added: "I am surprised that you are proposing a four-storey block of flats at the entrance to the site. It will be an eyesore on the valley bottom.

"This is basically a flood plain and should be returned to nature, not spoiling an area of natural beauty."

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This is what the proposed entrance would look like.