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.

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. 

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.

Rothwell Springhead Park bonfire 3 November 2017

Bonfire photo for Rothwell Springhead Park bonfireIt’s that time of year again when the nights are drawing in and it’s starting to feel a bit chillier. In Rothwell we’ll soon be gearing up for the community bonfire and fireworks display. I always remember Yorkshire’s connection with the original gunpowder plot – Guy Fawkes was born in nearby York.

I’m really excited and honoured to be lighting the bonfire this year. The bonfire will be held at Rothwell Springhead Park on Friday 3 November. The fire is lit at 7pm and the firework display kicks off at 7.30pm. The event, as always, is being organised by Leeds City Council with the support of the Rothwell District Lions Club.

Rothwell District Lions Club do a marvellous job on behalf of the community. The Lions Club Motto is ‘We Serve’. In the case of Rothwell District Lions, this is to serve and support the local community, at events such as the Rothwell Carnival, the annual May day Duck Race (which is my daughter’s particular favourite) and the Rothwell park bonfire. Every December the Lions escort Father Christmas on his sleigh visiting  homes in the area. I still remember seeing my little one’s face a few years ago after hearing actual sleigh bells!

As chair of the council’s Outer South area committee I’m pleased we help to boost extra police support around Bonfire Night, with extra money for police foot patrols as part of the Operation Flame Bonfire. It’s awful that a small minority misbehave and spoilt the enjoyment of everyone else.

Although bonfire night and fireworks are great please remember to think of your pets and make sure you keep them safe inside your house. The RSPCA has some good advice here. That includes not bringing your pet dogs to the bonfire!

In Rothwell, bonfire night is one of the highlights of our calendar and we’re expecting a huge turnout in excess of 10,000 in Springhead Park for 2017. I hope to see you all there for what’s sure to be a spectacular display to light up the skies of Rothwell once again.