The former Hirst Wood Nursery site next to the Leeds Liverpool Canal at Hirst Lock is currently home to a number of decrepit structures such as greenhouses that appear beyond repair and are filled with overgrown vegetation.
Now Bradford Council has issued a notice to Hartley Quality Residential Developments, the owners of the site, ordering them to tidy up the land – including removing the crumbling buildings, as soon as possible.
The land lies within both the Leeds Liverpool Canal Conservation Area and the buffer zone for the Saltaire World Heritage Site – and is on the popular canalside walk between Saltaire and Bingley.
Hartley Developments had attempted to build houses on the site in recent years.
The council had refused two planning applications to develop three houses on the site – claiming such a development was unsuitable for such a sensitive spot.
They also raised concerns about the extra traffic these homes would bring – and that it would cause conflict between motorists accessing the homes and pedestrians and cyclists on the canal towpath.
Hartley Quality Residential Developments had appealed the decision to refuse the latest planning permission, but earlier this month a Government Planning Inspector backed the Council’s decision, saying: “The benefits (of the plans) do not outweigh the harm in relation to the openness of the Green Belt, the harm to the character and appearance of the Conservation Area, and the setting of Hirst Lock.”
After hearing about the order made by the council, Coun Martin Love said: “It would be great if the site could be brought back into a use similar to when it was a nursery. This issue has been going on a very, very long time.
“I’ve had businesses contact me asking about the site – businesses such as garden centres interested in taking it on. I must get a query like that once a year, and I just pass on the details of the owners.”
Fellow Shipley councillor Kevin Warnes said: “It is something that I have pressed for repeatedly in recent years. The site owners should have sorted out this mess years ago, especially bearing its location in mind.
“I hope that Hartley will now work with the Council to develop the land in some form for the long-term benefit of the local community.
The Hirst Wood Regeneration Group also welcomed the news, saying: “Whilst there is still no longer term plan for the site at least this work will make it safer and improve the appearance of the area.”
On the group’s Facebook page followers have suggested possible uses for the site, from a wildflower meadow to a bistro.
For years the Group, along with residents of neighbouring homes, have called for something to be done with the site – which has been derelict for almost a decade.
The applications by Hartley had included a “managed woodland” on the site – but this was still not enough to sway planning officers to support the proposals.
It is thought that work to clear the site will start in the coming weeks.