CAMPAIGNERS are calling on the public to protest against long-term plans for up to 800 new homes in a Victorian spa town in Yorkshire amid concerns the landscape cannot cope with more development.
Ilkley Civic Society has warned the local infrastructure, including schools and transport, is already stretched to the limit and it is asking the public to make their views known as part of a consultation process on the planning blueprint for the wider Bradford district area.
The group’s concerns have been backed by Mike Gibbons, a Conservative councillor who represents Ilkley on Bradford Council, who said the effect of hundreds of new homes could be “immense” because local services and transport links are “at bursting point”.
In common with other councils, Bradford is required to assess how long-term need for housing can be met and produce a strategic plan across the area. According to the Government, Bradford Council has to earmark enough land for 42,000 houses by 2030.
A six-week consultation is now underway, with district-wide plans on show in council offices and libraries and the chance for the public to contribute their views. Last year, the council reduced the proposed number of homes to be built in Ilkley from 1300 to 800 because of concerns about development close to protected areas for birds, such as Ilkley Moor.
But the civic society’s chairwoman, Helen Kidman, said: “While the overall reduction was welcomed by local pressure groups, there is concern that it is a broad brush reduction which has not been calculated with precision and in fact puts more pressure on parts of the green belt areas to the east and west of Ilkley because of the impact on building anywhere within 400m of the edge of the moor. We think that 800 new homes are still too many.
“Here in Ilkley, we sometimes seem a long way from Bradford, but we cannot ignore the decisions made for the whole district that impact on our town. What is important to many people about Ilkley is its distinctiveness, its setting in Wharfedale, amid beautiful countryside, including woodlands, rare heather moors, with an attractive river and many traditional farms.
“If we wish to retain Ilkley’s countryside, and avoid urban sprawl, we all need to say so now.”
Coun Gibbons added: “There is very great concern regarding the proposal for increased housing in Ilkley. The effect on the area could be immense. Some of the infrastructure is at bursting point.
“Ilkley does need a plan for the future and it is accepted there will be further development over the years to come but this needs to be well planned and thought through and it has to be done in conjunction with improved facilities and availability of school places.
“Anybody who visits Ilkley these days knows the difficulties getting into the town and getting parked. It’s a tourist town but we have got to remember that people just live here as well. People come home, live and work in the town and it has a relatively finite size.”
The council said it could not comment on specific plans for Ilkley during the consultation. The proposals will go to Government for consideration later in the year.
In a statement, the council’s executive member for housing, planning and transport, Coun Val Slater, said: “We need a thorough and robust local plan to make sure we get the right sort of development in the right areas.
“We must anticipate not only the homes we will need in the future, but the type of industrial, commercial and social developments the district will experience in the next decades.
“If we get this right now, as we are trying our best to do, it will save a lot of problems in the next 20 years and help to protect our beautiful landscape.
“Of course we are subject to influences over which we have no control like the Government’s housing targets, and the way the economy affects housing and other investment, but we can develop a considered and practical response.”