Final planning appeal rules against developer wanting to build new homes on Green Belt site in Saltaire

A developer has once again been told it cannot build housing on the canalside site of a derelict garden centre.

Saltaire

Hartley Developments has wanted to build homes on the former Hirst Wood Nursery in Saltaire, just off the banks of the Leeds Liverpool Canal, for several years.

But Bradford Council has refused two applications for the site, with planning officers arguing that the plot, in the Green Belt on the edge of a World Heritage Site and next to the canal Conservation Area, was not suitable for such a development.

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Last year the Hartley Group appealed against the most recent refusal, arguing the site had previously been developed, and the homes would not harm the area.

But now a government planning inspector has backed the Council’s decision to refuse the plans, and dismissed the appeal.

The application called for the derelict garden centre buildings on the site to be demolished, with three houses built in their place.

A “managed woodland trail” would also be developed on the site - which is next to the Hirst Wood locks.

Planning officers gave four different reasons for refusing the plans, including that the proposals were unsuitable for a Green Belt site and that they would increase traffic on Hirst Wood Crescent.

Traffic could cause “conflict” with users of the canal towpath, officers claimed.

The Hartley Group’s appeal said: “Despite the site being in the Green Belt, it is a previously developed site and is adjacent to an existing urban development.

“It is located in a desirable location and would make a positive contribution to the five-year land supply of housing within the district.

“The new dwellings are low in height and due to the topography of the site and considerate design, they nestle well into the landscape. The introduction of new trees along the southern boundary will further reduce their presence on the tow path and overall the new houses and associated landscaping will make a positive contribution to the area.”

Deciding on the appeal, planning inspector Amanda Blicq said: “Although the built form’s volume would be concentrated in fewer buildings, those buildings would be significantly taller.

“As this would increase their visibility from the canal and towpath I conclude that this would represent a loss of openness compared to the existing situation.

“The appellant argues that views from the canal and towpath could be screened by tree planting. However, unless they were evergreen species, which would itself be incongruous in this setting, tree planting would only provide a screen when the trees were in full leaf.

“If tree planting is required for mitigation it suggests to me that a development is inappropriately sited.”

She said the existing area was 'a relatively intact and unspoilt juxtaposition of some of the key elements that contributed to Yorkshire’s 19th-century economic might', namely the canal, the lock, the mill and associated dwellings.

“The 18th century lock was designed by James Brindley, who was involved in the early design and construction of the Leeds Liverpool Canal.

“Insofar as the lock’s setting is related to the relationship with the towpath and the woodland setting, I conclude that the prominence of rather suburban dwellings on an adjoining site would detract from and diminish the significance of that setting.”

She acknowledged that the site was currently an eyesore, and agreed with the developer that Bradford was not meeting Government housing targets.

But the appeal decision added: “Those combined benefits do not outweigh the harm identified above 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.”