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/

The Rothwell Labour team 2018

Local Labour Party members who live in Rothwell, Woodlesford, Oulton and Carlton have chosen its three candidates for three candidatesnext year’s local council elections.

I’m delighted and honoured that they’ve chosen me (Karen Bruce) and David Nagle your existing councillors as well as a fantastic new candidate to contest the third Rothwell council seat.

At a meeting of local members on Friday 1 December we selected Sharon Burke. She told the meeting of her passion for giving local people the education, skills and employment they need to get on. Sharon spent many years working for the Job Centre and some may recognise Sharon from the seven years she spent working at the old job centre on Butcher Lane in Rothwell. She also worked as manager at Hunslet Job Centre. It says something when on leaving the job centre, 300 local people signed a petition to try to get her to stay!

Image may contain: 9 people, people smiling, people standingSharon impressed the local people at the meeting with her knowledge of many of the local issues Rothwell faces including her interest in the campaign by residents of the former coal board estate in Oulton, already coming up with ideas to help with the campaign before even being selected. Sharon also was well aware of the parking issue on Wood Lane and is keen to see progress with the situation. Sharon told the meeting that she doesn’t support HS2 and that she wants to help protect our local green fields.

Sharon is looking forward to working with us on the campaign and we are pleased to have her on the Rothwell Labour team.

Next year’s local election will be unusual in that all three council seats will be up for election at once. This means it is vitally important that you use all three of your votes to vote for Karen Bruce, Sharon Burke and David Nagle as it is essential we stop the Tories seizing control of Leeds council. If you vote for other candidates then there is a real risk the Tories will get in and impose even more brutal cuts in Rothwell, while protecting services in their own areas like Wetherby and Harewood. 

Save our homes plea from residents of Sugar Hill Close and Wordsworth Drive

Photo of residents of Sugar Hill Close and Wordsworth Drive with Cllr Karen Bruce and Cllr David Nagle

It’s a very worrying time for residents on one of our local estates, which is the former coal board estate near to Rothwell Leisure Centre, Sugar Hill Close and Wordsworth Drive. As it came to light in the last week or two that a whole community of 70 families is in danger of having their homes bulldozed as their private landlord prepares to put in a planning application for new housing in place of their homes.

This is a devastatingly worrying time for them and we as Rothwell councillors are doing all we can to support them. We have already spoken to many of the residents already and are continuing to knock on doors to try and visit all the residents. We have helped them to start a campaign this week for them to “Save our Homes”.

Many residents of the estate tell me they love where they live and want to stay as they have a great community. Many have paid enough in rent over the years to this private landlord that it would have been enough or even more than enough to buy their house.

Most residents only found out about this when a flyer arrived through their door. about a ‘public consultation’ event for “land at Sugar Hill Close and Wordsworth Drive”. Some didn’t see the leaflet as it was hidden in amongst takeaway menus that were delivered the same day.

Residents are rightly very upset and angry to be treated in such a horrible way. This is about the homes they live in and their close community which are far more important than the land.

A company called Pemberstone owns both the land and the homes. It is going to put in a planning application to build 72 new houses which we believe is likely to be sold as private housing.

David and I attended the drop-in session held by the agents and then demanded a meeting with the owner and its agents. The owner didn’t attend and the agents who attended on its behalf did not give satisfactory answers to our questions. The agents refused to make any guarantees to ensure that existing tenants would be protected and refused to give any guarantees to reassure tenants.

We as local Labour councillors will stand by the residents to fight this proposal and try to protect them and their families.

Poster in window Wordsworth DriveWe are already working with residents and have helped to set up a residents’ action group to fight this and stand up for people on Sugar Hill Close and Wordsworth Drive. A house meeting on Saturday saw volunteers come forward to help start the campaign. Over the weekend and using social media to keep in contact with the group, the campaign has already started and it’s great to see the posters in windows so quickly saying, “Save our Homes”.

Woodlesford community ignored by government over HS2

As the local councillor for Woodlesford I’m disappointed and furious that Chris Grayling, the government minister in charge of HS2, has ignored the wishes of local people and local Labour councillors and won’t change the HS2 route into Leeds.

This is a blow to Woodlesford residents who have been fighting hard to get the route changed. Not only has the government largely ignored the concerns of local people regarding the route through Woodlesford, but it has added insult to injury by refusing to improve the level of compensation for those affected.

I made my views very clear to HS2 early this year when I put together and submitted a response to the consultation from myself and my Labour ward colleague Cllr David Nagle. I made it clear that I can’t support HS2 whilst it is having such an adverse impact on the communities I represent in Oulton and Woodlesford.

Contrary to what Chris Grayling has said that he would continue to ensure affected communities get appropriate support and are treated with fairness, compassion and respect.

In fact, I believe the opposite is true as our communities have been from the very start and continue to be treated unfairly. They have been left in limbo without the appropriate communication or support. It makes me angry that this government claims that the community I represent has been treated with compassion, when in fact this government wouldn’t know the meaning of that word if it jumped up and bit it. To say that local people have been treated with respect by HS2 and the government beggars belief.

The whole consultation process has just an absolute sham from start to finish, residents have been ignored once again.

In a switch from previous plans, the government said it was now “minded” to build a new rolling stock depot on a former power station site next to junction 45 of the M1 to the east of Leeds instead of near the Wakefield village of Crofton. We are looking into what the implications of this could be for our area.

David and I have requested an urgent update and are looking at what more we can do as local councillors. We will continue to work with the local campaign group SoWhat HS2 to do all we can, even in the face of this decision. HS2 is of course a government scheme and the decisions on it are made in parliament not at council. I will continue to do my utmost to represent my constituents affected by the route. We must keep up the pressure.

Alec Shelbrooke seems very quiet on social media, let’s hope he is too busy standing up for local people and lobbying Chris Grayling, I’d like to think so but somehow that doesn’t fill me with any confidence

UPDATE

Several people have commented and been in touch to ask questions so I thought rather than responding individually and privately to people it would be helpful to update the original post.

I understand the frustrations that local people have. The fact is all the main parties are in support of HS2. However, it is the current Conservative government and the previous coalition government of Conservatives and Liberal Democrats that are responsible for the route, the compensation and the management of the consultation which has been abysmal.

The three main parties are supporting the scheme because of the benefits to the country as a whole and to the city of Leeds. That is why Leeds City Council is supporting HS2. My position is that I also support HS2 in principle, but initially expressed objections and concerns about the route and compensation, and therefore campaigned and lobbied for both to be improved.

That remained my position until it became clear that the Conservative government didn’t care about people in Woodlesford and Rothwell and were treating us with utter contempt by refusing to take meaningful action on our concerns. On the 14 March this year I, and Cllr David Nagle, issued a statement where we said: “We have made clear that we as local Labour councillors cannot support HS2 unless the huge blight on Woodlesford and Oulton is lifted.”

As your local representative I strongly feel that I cannot support HS2 whilst ever the route brings blight to our communities. I personally feel that HS3 will be the link that actually brings major benefit to the north and to our communities as opposed to HS2. But the government has betrayed the north on that as well with its announcement that it won’t be fully improving the trans-Pennine route to provide the vital boost to east west transport we need.

You can see some of my previous statements on HS2 here:

14 March 2017 | Karen Bruce and David Nagle can’t support HS2 blighting Woodlesford and Oulton

9 February 2016 | Listen to us call from village on HS2 line as floods warn of potential havoc

23 September 2015 | New council leader meets with HS2 Woodlesford residents

30 October 2014 | Letter to residents near government’s proposed HS2 route

22 October 2014 | Latest HS2 announcement shows government contempt for Rothwell, Woodlesford and Oulton

3 October 2013 | Support for HS2 SoWhat campaign for possible re-route and better compensation

24 July 2013 | HS2 Ltd visit area to see devastation of planned route

19 February 2013 | HS2 and Transport secretary show contempt for local people

16 February 2013 | HS2 route through Woodlesford comes as ‘bolt out of the blue’ for residents and councillors

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.