'Altofts still has a village identity': Unpopular WDH plans to build 156 new houses rejected by Wakefield Council

Controversial plans for 156 new homes, which objectors claimed would set a "dangerous precedent" for all of Wakefield, have been thrown out.

Friday, 19th March 2021, 5:06 pm
Updated Friday, 19th March 2021, 5:08 pm

Social housing supplier Wakefield District Housing (WDH) wanted to develop farmland in Altofts, which is overlooked by the M62 and next door to a heavy duty freight terminal run by Europort.

Campaigners fought hard against the plans, organising weekly parking protests along Pope Street in the village last year, to show the crippling effect they believed new homes would have on the area's roads.

A a petition carrying 582 signatures - one of the largest ever against any development in Wakefield in recent years - was submitted against the idea.

Campaigners fought avidly against the plans.
Campaigners fought avidly against the plans.

WDH insisted the location was "suitable for development" and that residents would be just a short distance away from large numbers of jobs on the nearby industrial estate.

The land itself was left unallocated in the latest version of the Wakefield housing plan.

But addressing councillors at a planning meeting on Thursday, objector Charlotte Broomhead said that there was no need for the estate because of the "oversupply" of new homes already across the district.

She said: "The argument put forward by the developer that this will help regenerate the area is flimsy.

Councillors concluded that the development would have a significant impact on the community and its roads.

"It's hard to see how any Altofts residents will derive any benefit from this application, which will put a strain on existing infrastructure.

"Approving this would set a dangerous precedent, allowing development anywhere in Wakefield on green fields that haven't been allocated."

WDH argued that more than a third of the homes would be classed as affordable and villagers would no longer have to tolerate farm vehicles using the roads at "anti-social hours".

Sue Young, WDH's executive director investment said: "It’s recognised there have been a number of objections, the majority related to the impact of traffic.

"A significant amount of work has been undertaken in this area which has proved it will have a minimal effect on the highway."

Wakefield Council officers had suggested the application be approved and claimed the development would not cause "unacceptable" traffic levels.

But a member of the authority's highways team, Adrian Piggott, later admitted he'd taken traffic surveys on the surrounding roads when Covid restrictions were first in place last year.

Mr Piggott said: "The surveys were completed during the first lockdown, but my observations and the data I collected largely mirrored those that the developer had collected in the year 2019 and the year before that, in 2018.

"That gave me even greater confidence in the data I’d picked up."

Mr Piggott also acknowledged he was unaware of the large build-up of vehicles on weekends, because an adjacent piece of land is used by a local football team.

Objectors had claimed too that the farmland was prone to a large build-up of water, but the council's flood risk manager insisted he was satisfied that the proposed drainage system would not increase flooding.

However, councillors remained unconvinced by the proposals and following a two-and-a-half hour long debate, they voted 10 to 3 in favour of rejecting the plan.

Branding the development "undesirable", Coun Kevin Swift said: "Altofts still very much has a village identity. A large village, yes, but that's the way the community feels.

"I can only echo the words of Ms Young when she characterised the site as being a triangle, adjoined by the motorway on the embankment, the Europort terminal and the warehouse development.

"She was using that language in support of why it was a good idea. I've got to say she couldn't have summarised better the reasons why I actually don't think it's a good place to put new homes."

Local Democracy Reporting Service