Historic Otley mill site could become care home and offices

Plans to revive an historic former printing press are set to go before planning chiefs at a meeting this week.

Leeds City Council’s south and west plans panel is set to discuss plans to convert the former Ashfield Works in Westgate, Otley, along with the surrounding site, into shops, a care home and houses.

Ashfield works in Otley. (Credit: Google)

Ashfield works in Otley. (Credit: Google)

But application has attracted numerous objections from locals, ward councillors and even archaeologists – who say parts of the site could date back more than 1,000 years.

The buildings themselves date back to the mid-1800s, and one was badly damaged by two fires in 2008 and 2015, and is set to be demolished.

Proposals for the site include a three-storey, 66-bed care home, four retail units and up to three office buildings. It would also include a cafe and 128 parking spaces.

On the southern side of the site, there would also be another six two-bedroom houses.

The plan also includes a “community unit” – a converted single-storey building for community use. While the report into the application doesn’t elaborate much on what this would mean, it suggested this could be a site for an “Otley Museum”.

Archaeologists have insisted that a full archaeological survey must take place at the site.

The council’s own report into the proposals states that the development area lies close to the sites of a manor house and a former Archbishop’s palace.

A letter to the authority from the West Yorkshire Architectural Advisory Service stated: “Fragments of pre-Conquest sculpture found at All Saints’ Church and similarly dated early remains of the Archbishop of York’s manor house to the north point to an important settlement at Otley by the 9th century if not before.

“We therefore recommend that the developer be required to provide the planning authority with an evaluation, based on appropriate analytical methods, of the full archaeological implications of the proposed development.”

A letter, signed by Otley’s three city councillors last year, claimed that the development was not of a high enough standard for the conservation area, that there was insufficient car parking space for the care home and that there could be a negative effect on traffic in the town centre.

The council’s own report into the plans recommended that the proposals are accepted in principle, subject to conditions being met. These include an archaeological investigation, landscaping and tree protection.

It concludes: “This scheme is in important opportunity to secure the regeneration of this brownfield town centre site which will provide further housing and employment opportunities within the town with a well-designed scheme which reuses the key buildings of merit within the site combined with appropriately-designed new buildings.

“The development will preserve or enhance the Otley Conservation Area as required and approval is recommended.”

The application is set to be heard on Thursday, February 21.