Esholt: A Day in the Field

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By Andrew Wood
27th August 2019

The 15th of August was a long day, but a really interesting and useful one as CPRE West Yorkshire visited Esholt to meet both the developers and the residents.

Planing Consultant out in the Field
Planing Consultant out in the Field

In the morning, we met representatives of Yorkshire Water and Keyland to learn about their planning application and their aspirations for the site. In the evening, we met several residents of Esholt village, to learn about their hopes and, of course, fears for what the proposals would bring. Andrew decided to put the sustainable travel credentials of the site to the test, travelling from Sheffield to Apperley Bridge by train, and using his folding bike to get around the site.

It would be churlish and counter-productive for us to doubt the applicant’s motives, and there’s no reason to. They genuinely want to do something good at Esholt – something that cleans up and restores the disused land, creates a flagship development that demonstrates the art of the possible, and connects well to the surrounding landscape. We meet landowners and developers quite often, but more often than not this is in an adversarial arena where they want to get permission for generic developments and make big profits from their off-the-shelf houses or business units. This case is not like that, and for that alone it’s a breath of fresh air.

But that’s not to say there aren’t concerns. Esholt villagers had lots of strong opinions, and it’s important they are taken into account. There are other communities nearby, for example in Idle, Baildon, Guiseley and Rawdon, who will also have views, because this is the countryside that’s on their doorstep, and it’s worth remembering many of those people actually live in Leeds City Council’s area, not Bradford’s, which makes it harder for them to be represented in the planning process.

It’s fair to say that what local communities really want from this site and its surrounding landscape is to make the most of the countryside asset, for their wellbeing, their recreation, and their sense that there is still wonderful, open countryside in their part of West Yorkshire. We completely agree with that, and it was a really powerful message that came across during our walk-and-talk on that lovely summer’s evening last week.

It’s also fair to say that the sewage works, Yorkshire Water’s operations, and the way that Esholt Hall and gardens have been closed off from the public for so long are big hindrances to what this landscape is capable of providing for people. Andrew found this to his own cost, when he found his cycle journey back to Apperley Bridge station blocked by big, ominous steel gates, and had to make two detours that neither his small bike nor his decent shirt were too pleased about.

As a result of this fascinating day, we have now formulated our response to the planning application, and we’ll be posting this here, on our website very shortly after submitting it to Bradford Council. We’ve taken the position that it is the opportunity to improve the landscape and people’s access to it that justifies the development proposals, and so we really want to see a masterplan for the wider landscape, including the Hall and gardens, the woodlands and connections to the canal. We’re also making some suggestions as to how the proposals themselves could be improved.

A big thank you to the applicant and to the lovely people of Esholt for giving us their time.