Esholt – Our Planning Response
We have been weighing up the proposals for this site for some time. So then, what do we think?
You can read our full submission here. It should be available soon on Bradford Metropolitan District Council’s application documents.
We welcome the aspiration to create a ‘truly sustainable development’ at Esholt, and believe there is the potential to achieve this as long as the area is not urbanised as a result of the proposals. The built interventions are rural developments to our mind, and as such, they must be appropriate for the countryside.
The built elements of these proposals are within those parts of the site currently occupied by disused tanks and filter beds, and we support the principle of a suitable redevelopment of those brownfield areas. We welcome the aim to create an exemplar of water efficient, flood resilient development, and to embrace the unique characteristics of the Esholt site. Avoiding a generic residential scheme is crucially important, and it is clear from the detailed residential proposals that the applicant intends a bespoke solution. To that extent, we welcome the proposals.
Although we support appropriate redevelopment of the brownfield elements of the site, we feel it should be considered as part of a wider context, to show how the various elements of the application will fit into a sustainable future for this wonderful area of countryside. The future of Esholt Hall and gardens, and the surrounding landscape, are particularly important to this.
We consider that the environmental enhancement opportunities for the area do offer very special circumstances for development in the Green Belt, although we do not accept that there is a strategic case for housing or employment land that would, in itself, justify Green Belt development. There is potential for a very special outcome, and we hope that the applicant, the Council and the local community will be able to work together to realise that potential.
We wish to see a development that looks forward to a ‘low-car’ future, where active travel is a realistic and attractive choice for many trips. To that end, we wish to see the station park & ride enhanced and expanded as a well-designed gateway to the site, alongside further measures to reduce car traffic within the site. Further thought should be given to a mixed use solution for the proposed employment area that enables functions which could bring vitality and purpose to a rail accessible location, for example some small shop units, nursery, bakery.
The residential scheme has many positive features but it is in an unsustainable location. On balance, if the full range of enhancements to the site and the landscape, for the benefit of the community, can be achieved, then we are willing to accept the shortcomings of the location, though a creative approach to public transport access would be very welcome improvement. We have a preference for a more compact layout, allowing more room for communal green space, tree planting and visitor parking.
We support the principle of redeveloping the filter beds for employment and/or mixed use, but we do not consider B8 storage and distribution uses to be appropriate or sustainable for this location, and in our view this should be removed. Given the outline nature of the employment proposals, we would wish to see a clear set of conditions on any approval, to lock in important aspects of the future character of this part of the site.
The existing uses for the site generate very low volumes of traffic, are quiet and dark at night, and are well-screened by mature woodland. The development proposals could potentially have a dramatic impact on tranquillity, which CPRE regards as a form of openness. Openness is not only visual, and tranquillity is not only about sound – the two qualities are inter-related. It is therefore our view that this application does need to demonstrate very special circumstances for development in the Green Belt, but there is an opportunity here to balance impacts on the character and openness of the countryside more favourably with a wider masterplan.
We do not accept that the scale of need for the residential or employment development are, in themselves, justifications of very special circumstances. However, the enhancement opportunity offered by a sensitive redevelopment of the site does provide a much more compelling case for very special circumstances.
After careful consideration, we have reached the conclusion that the future of this site must be determined on the basis that it remains in the countryside. That is to say, it must not ‘urbanised’ by its redevelopment. The site has a long and fascinating history, and it is essential that it continues to tell an interesting story long into the future. The site and its immediate surroundings are characterised by:
- A country house and its estate, in need of enhancement;
- Ancient and other woodland, in need of connection, management and a net gain approach to ecology;
- A wealth of heritage features, with opportunity for much greater public engagement;
- Recreational access for walkers and cyclists, with scope for improvement;
- A central, functional role in Leeds and Bradford’s water management, which will continue;
- A historic village, whose own character must be cherished;
- The Leeds-Liverpool Canal, which is not only a recreational corridor but also offers great potential for active travel to access the area on foot, cycle or boat;
- Some dereliction, which needs to be removed.
We think that the scheme should be considered as two rural developments within a wider countryside setting. It is essential that this wider countryside setting fully informs the planning application and that a more comprehensive area masterplan of the wider area is needed, integrated with the West Yorkshire Green Infrastructure Strategy. We hope that Bradford MDC will work with the developer to produce such a plan.
This is our initial response to the development proposals. We will be continuing to cover the journey of this proposal, looking at any amended plans, new documentation and crucially, the outcome. We will be tweeting news of our next instalment.