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/

Good news for Haigh Side and Castle Lodge residents as site is removed from building plans

Cllr Karen Bruce at Haigh Side green belt site RothwellIt was confirmed at the Leeds city council full council meeting in January that the controversial Haigh Side site is now to be a ‘broad location’ in the council’s updated plan. This means that it will be given protection as green belt land for the next 16 years.

The site allocation HG2-173 near Wood Lane is behind the St George’s and Haigh Side estates and this means that the long campaign by Labour councillors and residents has been a success.

We mounted a campaign with residents when it emerged that this large site of more than 500 houses behind the St George’s estate (former hospital) and the Haigh Side estate had been earmarked to provide building land. The site is green belt land and Labour councillors and residents argued that it should remain in the green belt, and that there would be huge access issues affecting the residential estates of St George’s and Haigh Side Way. The area has seen recent double parking problems which we are working to resolve and there is a large volume of traffic already coming from the Wood Lane direction into Leeds. We urged local people to write in their objections to this land being included as a site allocation and worked with the Rothwell Neighbourhood Forum who submitted their own objection.

This is great news, we made our opinion very clear to council bosses that we do not want this as a development site and had meetings with the Executive Board member and the Chief Planning Officer. The arguments we and residents put forward were valid and I’m pleased that we’ve been listened to and that residents have been heard. We argued that brownfield should always be built on first and that the infrastructure in this area of Rothwell just couldn’t cope with a development of this scale, including schools and doctors’ surgeries. We were assured during the consultation that well thought through changes could be made to the site allocations proposals and we took them at their word and pushed for it to be removed. Thanks to all those residents who put in comments and objections.

Wood Lane double parking action

PA300184Just to give an update on the parking issue on Wood Lane. We have been making regular visits over the last few months to look at the problem at different times. Just in the last two weeks we’ve looked at it with Angela Kellett, chair of Rothwell Tenants and Residents Association, and also with Gary Bartlett, the director of highways for Leeds City Council and with Cllr Richard Lewis, the executive board councillor responsible for highways.

We have spoken to lots of residents about this and you understandably have strong, and varied, opinions on the subject. We have also asked for more feedback from residents on the proposed plans which highways had drawn up earlier after our initial meetings.

After giving this much thought and deliberation and considering everyone’s comments, we have decided to progress with the scheme of further restrictions. It does need different actions working together to try to improve the situation. These further parking restrictions will play a part in this.

We are also working with agents of Valley Park who are planning short term to increase parking at one of the sites, the Lowell group’s own offices, a possible short term increase of 106 spaces, and we are working with them to make this happen, and to look at increasing parking at other businesses and at possible options on and off site.

PA300172Residents tell us they think the parking problem is dangerous. We want to see the restrictions in place as soon as is practical. Safety is our number one consideration so these are the improvements that we have asked to be implemented as soon as possible:

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To improve resident safety, including school children crossing:

  • Stricter parking restrictions to reduce double parking and provide better visibility and access at junctions.
  • Request for a pedestrian crossing, we’ve asked for a survey to be done to try to secure a crossing.
  • We’ve asked Highways to look at better access for buses to get into and out of the bus stops.
  • Work begins next year on Park and Ride car park at Stourton, which should alleviate some of the parking pressure in Rothwell including in the Wood Lane area
  • Liaising with representatives of Valley Park to increase its parking provision on site
  • Liaising with Valley Park to encourage employers to improve their parking policies, such as introducing better car share arrangements and allowing more staff to use current parking facilities (rather than just senior management).
  • Regularly review the situation particularly any actual impact of the further restrictions on Wood Lane.

We know how frustrating a situation this is for residents which is why we’re determined that things should improve.

We want to reassure you that residents have our full support and we have been and will continue to do all we can to resolve this issue.

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.

Rothwell Labour councillors’ news on Wood Lane parking latest plans

Great news, we now have the plan of how the council’s highways officers propose to tackle the double parking and other problems on Wood Lane. This is a result of me and David getting highways officers, the executive member and director to come to Wood Lane to see the problem for themselves.

The proposals contain further restrictions to try to combat some of the current problems with cars parking along both sides of Wood Lane and at the entrances to streets off Wood Lane. It is a difficult balance to strike but we would be interested to know what people think before we feed back to the highways officer our views on this proposed scheme.

The plan looks like it could help, but we think it is unlikely to solve all the issues. Let us know what you think in the comments below or contact us direct.

This is the plan. You can click on the magnifying glass icons at the bottom to zoom in and out, or click on the right hand icon with the four arrows to make it full screen. Or you can download a PDF of the map here.

Wood Lane Parking Plan by karenbrucelab on Scribd


This was the info in the email accompanying the new plan:

Dear Councillors,

Please find a plan showing a traffic regulation order scheme to formalise parking to address the concerns you have raised which are mainly sight lines been obstructed due to parking and that the width of Wood Lane does not safely permit parking on both sides of Wood Lane.

The proposals therefore removes the ability to park on either side of Wood Lane both in the rural section and the urban area to address your concern. I am aware that the parking demand in this area will not simply disappear and I do have a real concern that parking will migrate into some of the side streets. As I have previously explained the policy for resident permit parking is that

a. There is an all day parking issue.

B. Residents are unable to park in close proximity to their homes when they return to the area and

C. The residential properties do not have their own off street parking provision/ opportunity.

As you are aware many of these side streets all have off street parking opportunity and therefore we would not be able to support permit parking in these area.

I am also mindful that the restrictions within the urban area will inconvenience local residents who do and have for many years parked on both sides of Wood Lane and also often park partially on the pavement which was also a complaint you raised at the meeting.

As I have previously explained that from a Traffic Engineering perspective their is no justification for such wide scale measures and that in my opinion some extension of the double yellow lines would address the sight line concerns and the parking on both sides of Wood Lane does act to slow vehicle speeds, particularly when the service used to get regular complaints of speeding.

I trust the above and attached is of interest.

Regards