Controversial West Ardsley 300 homes plan sparks row over Haigh Moor Wood

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Campaigners fighting controversial plans for nearly 300 homes have accused developers of failing to properly engage with their community.

Proposals for 289 houses straddling fields in West Ardsley were debated extensively again on Thursday, as councillors scrutinised the scheme’s layout and design.

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Redrow Homes, who are behind the plans, were accused by the West Ardsley Action Group, which is among the scheme’s opponents, of failing to consult properly with the local community.

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Proposals for 289 houses straddling fields in West Ardsley were debated extensively again on Thursday, as councillors scrutinised the scheme’s layout and design. Picture: Tony Johnson.Proposals for 289 houses straddling fields in West Ardsley were debated extensively again on Thursday, as councillors scrutinised the scheme’s layout and design. Picture: Tony Johnson.
Proposals for 289 houses straddling fields in West Ardsley were debated extensively again on Thursday, as councillors scrutinised the scheme’s layout and design. Picture: Tony Johnson.

The developers strongly denied that claim, saying they’d engaged widely.

The plans were given outline planning permission in May 2020, meaning Thursday’s debate was supposed to be focused around the finer details and appearance of the scheme, which received thousands of objections when it was first conceived.

It means arguments about its impact on the local infrastructure are now considered settled by the council, although campaigners still maintain too many homes are proposed and that many are of the “wrong kind”.

But addressing councillors at a plans panel meeting, Tim Chapman from the West Ardsley Action Group, said: “The applicant has not consulted effectively with the local community or produced a report on what consultation has happened.

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“People living directly adjacent to where the proposed houses will be have not received a leaflet (about the plans).

“This is Redrow’s standard practice elsewhere.”

However planning agent Stephen Sadler, representing the developers, said: “The suggestion Redrow hasn’t consulted the public is completely erroneous.

“There’s no requirement for any engagement to be undertaken but the engagement has been thorough.

“I think that criticism is singularly unfair, especially during the pandemic.”

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Both the action group and Redrow agreed they’d had two lengthy meetings this calendar year, including one on the proposed site.

But while Redrow cited that as proof of their willingness to engage, the campaigners claimed that was “no substitute” for wider public consultation which they suggest has not taken place.

Concerns were later raised about the prospect of three trees potentially being axed to make way for the homes, although Redrow pointed to their pledge to preserve and manage Haigh Wood, which neighbours the site.

Mr Sadler said Redrow’s plans would result in a “10 per cent biodiversity gain” for the area and an “incredible public benefit.”

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He said: “We’re protecting those trees (in Haigh Wood) and in some cases improving the quality of them.

“I feel it’s a bit of a misnomer that one of the campaign groups objecting to this is called ‘Save Haigh Wood’, because that’s exactly what this is doing.”

But councillors expressed concern about the number of affordable homes within the development, with only 43 of the proposed properties classed as such.

The developers themselves said their plans complied with council policies and pointed to their investment in the surrounding area as evidence of the supposed benefits of the scheme.

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But Morley North councillor Robert Finnigan said: “A bit like my school report, must do ‘better’ (is my assessment).

“This application is not acceptable at this particular point.”

Councillors voted to defer the application before them, to allow for more information to be gathered and negotiations over the finer points of the scheme to continue.

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