Fighting with former coal board estate residents to ‘Save our Homes’ from the bulldozer

Residents on the former coal board estate of Wordsworth Drive and Sugar Hill Close, near Rothwell sports centre in Oulton are sick with worry as Pemberstone (their private landlord) submitted its planning application to bulldoze the 70 homes on the estate and replace with 71 new private houses. Residents are happy there and many have lived there for decades including quite a few former miners, miners widows or grown up children of miners. There are a group of residents that have lived there for half a century when the estate was part of the mining community of the Rothwell district.

Image result for councillor karen bruce full councilThere are also a lot of residents who have lived on the estate for up to 15 or 20 years, who still be turfed out of their homes with only two months’ notice the same as those who have been there for a shorter times. Pemberstone says it will meet its legal responsibilities but as that gives no protection at all for most of the residents, it isn’t good enough.

Petition on Christmas stallMyself and my ward colleague Cllr David Nagle have been supporting residents in various ways since October see previous update. On our Labour councillors’ stall in Rothwell we collected signatures for the paper petition to ‘save our homes’ along with residents. This is being run in conjunction with the online petition which already has over 1300 signatures and you can sign at http://bit.ly/sohls26.  I also organised for a welfare solicitor to meet the group and he gave some useful advice to the tenants.  I also advised the residents of a phone in on 18 February on LBC radio with the Conservative housing secretary Sajid Javid where a resident got to speak with him and put the plight of the residents to him. He said he would receive their information and looImage may contain: 2 people, people on stage, people sitting and indoork into it for them, but he hasn’t got back to the residents as promised.

I raised the issue in the council chamber at full council speaking up for the plight of the residents of the estate and used the opportunity to also call for more social housing. I also assisted the group in being able to take a deputation to full council on the same day to put forward their case to all councillors and senior council officers.

This is the singImage may contain: 3 people, people sitting, table and indoorle biggest injustice I’ve seen in my time as a Rothwell councillor and it beggars belief that this could be allowed to happen. I’ve met lots of great local people in my time as a councillor and it is gutting that a whole community of our fantastic local people face losing their homes. They deserve so much better. I will continue to do my utmost for these residents.

We have met with the group on a regular basis and offering ongoing support with all the issues as they develop. We have arranged for Leeds Housing Options to visit residents to offer the appropriate advice on each individual family’s housing situations.

When the issue came to light I managed to secure BBC coverage on its Look North television news programme to highlight the plight of the residents http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-leeds-41650285.

We are lobbying the council to see to what extent it is possible that it could intervene to help the residents.

As a result, I’m pleased that Martin Farrington, the council’s director of city development will meet with Pemberstone, the owner of the homes, shortly so that the council has certainty about its intentions towards the tenants.

The planning department has told me that it will still accept comments on the planning application up until at least 16 February. If you want to help local families stop private investment company Pemberstone from bulldozing their homes to replace them with expensive executive homes please put your own comments in to object to the planning application. They are our neighbours and part of the Rothwell, Woodlesford and Oulton community and are relying on us all for support.

Here are some of the points you may consider including in your comments to planning application 17/06933/FU :

  • These plans would see 70 families losing their homes and it would be impossible to rehome them all.
  • The proposal will change the character of the former coal board estate neighbourhood and a key part of the local mining heritage beyond recognition.
  • The 70 existing properties on this former coal board estate are fully occupied by tenants, many of whom have lived there for many years. Residents are happy living there in their close community.
  • It is unfair that a whole community of people should lose their homes and community support because they can’t afford to buy or rent expensive new private housing
  • This type of affordable rented housing is badly needed in the area. To lose 70 affordable housing units would be devastating for the area.
  • It is important to have a good mix of properties and the type of private housing proposed to be built will just provide more of the same type of new development we have seen so much of in the Oulton area.
  • This proposal is harmful to community wellbeing and the health and wellbeing of individual people.
  • The proposal doesn’t add any housing to the area and isn’t an allocated site.
  • Residents see a lot of bats around the estate, especially at certain times of the year. There are reports of bats in residents’ lofts. Bats are protected by law and no bat survey has been done.

You can comment at http://publicaccess.leeds.gov.uk/online-applications/

Looking to future needs of Rothwell people with extra care housing

Great news for Rothwell as plans are approved by the council to provide brand new extra care housing potentially in the Rothwell area.

I brought a group of interExtra care groupested community activists together to start looking into the possibility of extra care for the future in Rothwell over a year ago and they have been meeting regularly with and my Labour ward colleague Nagle and the council’s adult social care and Executive Board members to discuss how the group will liaise with the council and others to help to make extra care happen in the Rothwell area. Members of the group include, Ron Frost, Pauline Hope, Peter Smith, Anglela Kellett, Stuart Bruce, Gordon Dick, James Morley and Brian Garbett.

We also have an ambition to incorporate a community social hub into Rothwell plans where both residents inside and outside of the extra care housing can meet and it could become a focus of activity to beat social isolation in the wider community, especially where older people are living alone in their own homes.

We have as a group visited two extra care sites – at Yew Tree House in Moor Allerton and last month the recently opened council extra care facility Wharfedale View in Yeadon to get a feel for what we could achieve in Rothwell as a forward thinking alternative that many of us would prefer when we reach our older years.

Yew-Tree-Court-extra-careAt the council’s executive board meeting held at Civic Hall on Monday 17 July, members approved a proposal which involves potentially developing six sites in the city for council-owned extra care accommodation, and one of the sites is at Windlesford Green, Woodlesford, which is past the Tesco Express along Holmsley Lane.

The sites identified for possible extra care schemes are in Rothwell, West Ardsley, Armley, Seacroft, Holt Park and Middleton form part of a commitment by the council to invest £30million in the development of extra care housing in Leeds, and working with partners with the aim of delivering over a thousand new extra care units to meet rising demand by 2028.

The council’s approach forms part of the Better Lives Programme, which aims to modernise how care and support is organised in line with older and disabled people’s aspirations. Extra care housing offers an alternative model to residential care, and is primarily for those who have care and support needs as well as a housing need.

Features of the extra care approach include on-site access to 24/7 emergency or unplanned care, access to shared facilities, dining and activities to help alleviation isolation, allows people to use personal budgets to make their own arrangements for planned care, accommodation can be adapted to support the delivery of personal health and social care services.

It’s great news that Rothwell is in the six identified for potential extra care housing to be built. I’ve been impressed by what I’ve seen looking at other schemes. Whilst in a care setting, people get to have their own modern apartment, not just a room like in a care home, and still have access to the care they need, extra care is not like sheltered housing, as some have suggested, as it can still provide the level of care one might expect in a care home. Times change and so do expectations, I want the best possible for people in Rothwell, Woodlesford, Oulton and Carlton. I would like to thank the group for helping us come this far and look forward to working even more closely with local people and the council to try to get the scheme we’d all like in the Rothwell/Woodlesford area.

Karen Bruce and David Nagle can’t support HS2 blighting Woodlesford and Oulton

Image may contain: 2 people, people sitting, table and indoorMe and my fellow Rothwell ward Labour councillor colleague David Nagle organised a drop in session for Woodlesford and Oulton residents so they could tell us about their concerns over HS2 prior to the deadline for submissions.

Many residents had already told us their views either by coming to our surgeries, emailing us, phoning us, using social media or by talking to us at community events. It was useful to have our drop-in session on HS2 which gave residents another chance to tell us what they think. There was a good turnout of local people and good to chat with many people about the issues concerning them.  We would like to thank SoWhat, the local campaign group for the work they have done to campaign on this issue, keep up the good work.

Residents are worried, there are many questions which HS2 aren’t answering and people are stuck in limbo.

We have made clear that we as local Labour councillors cannot support HS2 unless the huge blight on Woodlesford and Oulton is lifted. In our submission to HS2 to its latest consultation, we have strongly objected to the revised route.

 

HS2 Ltd consultation submission from Rothwell Labour councillors Karen Bruce and David Nagle

We have held a drop in session in Woodlesford where residents could come and talk to us about their concerns over the HS2 revised route coming through our community. The following is a summary of concerns expressed by very worried and anxious residents who want answers and are getting far too few.

We strongly object to the revised route including two tunnels and viaducts tearing through the villages of Oulton and Woodlesford and causing untold blight on many more residents in the heart of the villages than the original route, although most of those previously impacted will still also feel the blight. This is not acceptable for our communities. Whilst ever the route proposes a blight on the villages we represent, namely Oulton and Woodlesford, then we cannot support HS2.

From the time the original HS2 route plan was announced in 2012, the communities of Woodlesford and Oulton which we represent, have been blighted, the ability to sell homes impacted and prices falling.

The changes announced recently by HS2 to the route in November 2016 has seen the viaduct along the canal side replaced by two tunnels travelling through the heart of our villages and the proposed main line viaduct has got higher and longer. Those previously the most impacted remain affected and now many more residents are impacted as HS2 engulfs the whole of Woodlesford and Oulton.

The area is riddled with old mine shafts and workings and there is therefore the real concern about subsidence and slip.

Residents are worried about possible noise and vibration from the train both under and over ground. We are concerned with the vibration and noise especially near to the exit of the tunnels, and this (together with noise as the train eventually passes) is of major concern to residents living in the houses around Eshald Lane, Bernard Street and Fleet Lane areas closest to the tunnel entrance. It is a fact that the faster the train, the louder the sound and vibrations.

Impacts on residents’ health and wellbeing – We are very concerned as local elected representatives that the negative impacts could affect the whole community in its health and well being. Impact on and possible loss of vital local businesses to the community functioning as healthy and happy places and job losses. Health issues including mental health issues can arise out of people living with worry and fear as well as any actual impact on physical health from air pollution, dust and what might be disturbed from tunnelling on an old landfill site and old mines, where there is believed to be raw asbestos rocks. Concerns about the pocket of radon gas known to be present under Woodlesford Primary school and in the area. We do not want local children or residents at risk.

Increased traffic concerns – we already have many traffic, congestion and road safety concerns in our villages and it is unimaginable that the amount of spoil from tunnel excavation will equate to some 14,000 extra trucks on our roads.

Landscape and visual impact We feel that the cutting to enter the tunnel entrance at Water Haigh Woodland Park, and the tunnel entrance itself is planned to be unacceptably close to here. Visually this is intrusive and the make-up of the landscape makes this unsuitable.. We feel that another route for the tunnel is found away from the residential area, and that limits the damage to public green space, or at the very least the tunnel entrance entering Woodlesford is moved all the way back to the M62. We are concerned that the proposed entrance to the tunnel going under Woodlesford will have a significant impact on access during construction as both Eshald Lane, and Fleet Lane will need to be closed and new bridges constructed over the cutting. Aberford Road is already at, or over maximum capacity and gridlocks easily. Further loading would have devastating effects to the community and infrastructure. There is only one road through Woodlesford, and this doesn’t seem to have been thought about.

Community spaces and wildlife – – Local residents regularly use all of the the green space within Woodlesford, and Oulton and surrounding areas. Residents stay healthy through dog walks, cycling, Walking/rambling, playing with children and vital exercise for the elderly, Running and sports. Residents are worried about losing valuable open and green spaces, which have had a lot of thought, effort and funds spent to make our green spaces joined up. Residents fear the decimation of these green space due to HS2 coming right through communities and green spaces.

Closure of Woodlesford Train Station – untold disruption and loss of amenity for residents as Woodlesford train services could be suspended for up to two years.

Construction – enduring construction for around 6 years would be too much for our villages, if the route was moved away from villages, from communities and densely populated areas, this would be hugely mitigated. A temporary village is planned to house 1000 workers. Residents also have concerns over the impacts of possible ventilation shafts and emergency exit workings along the route of the tunnels during construction and afterwards.

The blight on these villages from this huge engineering project cutting straight through them is too much for these quiet villages to take.

We strongly believe that HS2 should be re-routed away from whole villages to cause the minimum amount of impact. There are many people worried and impacted, were the route to be taken away from our villages, far fewer people would be impacted.

As the plans stand, we cannot support HS2, unless the huge blight on Oulton and Woodlesford is lifted.

We request that HS2 Ltd moves its route away from our densely populated, happy and peaceful communities. We still believe a more direct tunnelled route , or a route largely following the existing transport corridors would be cost neutral in comparison to the complex viaduct and tunnel construction now proposed.

New playground for Woodlesford Park

Labour councillors Karen Bruce and David Nagle at one fo the new Rothwell playgrounds

Rothwell Labour councillors Karen Bruce and David Nagle at one of the new local playgrounds they’ve secured for local children.

Me and my Labour councillor ward colleague David Nagle are excited that new playground equipment is coming to Woodlesford Park with work expected to start any time now. Getting new playgrounds locally is a priority for us as Labour councillors and we are not only working to get a new playground for Woodlesford park, we are also then pushing for Rothwell Springhead Park to be next for new playground equipment.

Nearby residents in Woodlesford were written to over the summer and the parks department has included as many suggestions as possible from the comments received from local people.

A new playground has been one of our priorities for the area. Local people told us it was important to them to have new play equipment for local children and we’ve worked hard to see that it happens.  Research shows that outdoor free play gives children many valuable benefits, including the development of physical, emotional, social and cognitive skills and although local children have loved playing on the current equipment over the years, it is now well past its best and I know many local children are looking forward to trying out the new equipment.

Some, but not all, of the monies from recent building developments have been used for the playground.  It is fantastic that the new playground will be ready and able to be enjoyed by local children this spring and summer. It will be great to see these improvements for local children. Residents constantly tell us that they need new play equipment and it is a pleasure to help to provide it for Woodlesford and Oulton children.

 

Rothwell to get brand new leisure centre built

Rothwell sports

Fantastic news for Rothwell, Woodlesford, Oulton, Carlton and surrounding villages as it is announced that Rothwell is to get a new state of the art leisure centre

At the recent meeting of the Executive Board, as part of a wider report on the vision for leisure centres in the city, proposals will see a brand new facility built on land adjacent to the existing site in Rothwell.

Me and my Labour ward colleague Cllr David Nagle have been campaigning for improvement and significant investment to overhaul Rothwell Leisure Centre and have had meetings with the senior officers and the executive board member responsible.

We really welcome the new proposals, which will see a number of integrated services housed alongside gym facilities and full size and small swimming pool,with lido splash pool, along with new gym and sports facilities. Extra facilities not currently offered under the existing leisure centre model will also be included. Pending the outcome of a detailed feasibility study, it is estimated that the new leisure and wellbeing facility would cost in the region of £10-14m, forming part of the Council’s wider ‘invest to grow’ focused commercial strategy.

This is even better than we hoped for as we have been pushing for investment in our leisure centre for a long time. To get a new build is absolutely fantastic news. It’s wonderful to see this significant investment into our local communities despite continuing pressures to our budgets. It shows a continued commitment to giving all residents the opportunity to either remain or become active, and will contribute greatly towards the health and well-being of local people.

Rothwell Leisure centre is one of the most well used sports centres in the city and is well loved in Rothwell and our villages by many people and families, including my own. But the current centre was built in the 1970’s and needs more than a little TLC. We need our leisure centre to be fit for the 21st century and people’s expectations and experiences change. With a brand new modern, high quality leisure and wellbeing centre, I know that the people of Rothwell will greatly welcome access to affordable, top class classes and facilities.