A victory for community action

dsc03137Today brings the rather momentous news that the Tetley Field planning application has been withdrawn by the applicant!

It’s probably worth saying at the outset that this is by no means the end of this planning battle. Tetley Field, despite strong local objection, was earmarked for housing in the first draft of the Council’s Site Allocation Plan in 2015. The plan goes to Public Inquiry in 2017. If the Field is included in the final Plan, it would be removed from the Green Belt and the applicant may well be encouraged to re-apply. So there is much to be done in 2017 to uphold the important Green Belt function that Tetley Field performs.

Nonetheless, it’s difficult to feel anything other than triumphant today. For 8 months, a powerful commercial applicant has promoted a planning application. They have submitted reams and reams of information, and employed countless consultants and other specialists to prepare it. They have done their level best to influence the planning process in their favour – not turning up to a Plans Panel meeting, concocting a spurious community benefits statement, influencing the media to their advantage and more. They have sought to get the Council on their side by promoting a connection between development in the Green Belt and another Council aspiration (retaining Test cricket).

And despite all this, for the moment, they have had to admit defeat. Why? Because a committed group of local residents mounted a powerful and effective campaign against them. In this campaign, the residents argued convincingly that the application was legally flawed. They also generated extensive local opposition, so that around 1500 people were able to communicate to the Council just how important Tetley Field is to them. Some members of the community made exceptional contributions, chalking up hundreds of hours of volunteer time by talking to people in Meanwood Park, putting up posters, dealing with the press, updating websites/social media and making inspiring artistic contributions (of which the following song, poem, photography and satirical clip are just the most noteworthy).

So while it’s not the end of the metaphorical war, it’s certainly a significant battle won. A real victory for local community action against powerful commercial interests. Many thanks indeed to everyone that contributed to the Save Tetley Field campaign in 2016, and hopefully it can count on your support in 2017. Season’s greetings!

And, it goes without saying, a pretty good conclusion to the Meanwood Rambler’s first year of blogging!Version 2

Tetley Field poem

Many thanks to the author for allowing her marvellous poem to be reproduced here:

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Tetley Field

planning app. ref. no. 16/02583/OT

 

Her Green Belt is being tightened

her gold buttercups lightweight

on the balance sheet.

 

She is accused of being a scrubber

unkempt, unfashionable

of being down and dirty.

 

But she is fecund, generous.

Her grass grows meadowed to the sun

she is brambled, oak strewn.

 

She succours field mice

thatched over in grassy clumps.

Butterflies suck at purpled thistles

 

and city dogs, blooded in her

strew small velvet corpses,

pick blackberries with delicate teeth.

 

She embraces autumn, celebrates

in a gold leaf makeover

red berried, luxuriant

 

but shawls herself in white

snow deep

for the solstice moon.

 

She practises temperature inversion

and we stand, puddled in her mud

our heads high on mist.

 

Síle Moriarty

© December 2016

The Green Belt – our common ground

I’ve recently started reading Rob Cowen’s highly-acclaimed book “Common Ground”. It’s an autobiographical account of the author’s appreciation of and immersement in a stretch of Green Belt land on the edge of his hometown of Harrogate. Given that I’m involved in a campaign to save a similar piece of Green Belt nearby in Leeds, I thought I’d take the half-hour trip up the A61 to check out this patch.

A brief look at the map reveals that the area is bordered by a triangle of paths. This forms a convenient 2-mile rambling circuit and a good way of getting a first impression of the author’s “Edgeland”. My round took just over an hour, although there’s plenty of scope for poking around and extending this further.

I parked at the car park on Bilton Lane, a couple of miles north-east of Harrogate town centre. The three sides of the triangle are each of well-defined character, and I chose to do the circuit anti-clockwise. So first it was down an ancient track through open fields. Second, through musty woodlands alongside the broad River Nidd. And finally, returning via an old railway line that now forms part of the Nidderdale Greenway, a dedicated traffic-free route.

dsc03152dsc03157dsc03168The main theme I’ve taken from what I’ve read of the book so far is that while the countryside on the edge of our towns may lack the beauty of more remote areas, it is of at least equal value to us. There may be unsightly pylons, litter, yapping dogs etc… but the very proximity of these areas provides us with an easily-accessible contrast to our everyday urban experience.

It was certainly very easy to have a sense of “getting away from it all” on the first two sides of the triangle. I didn’t pass anyone on the walk down the track, and only a few alongside the river. However, the character of the walk changed once joining the Greenway – a well-used thoroughfare for dog walkers, cyclists and runners as well as ramblers like me. Lots of accompanying paraphernalia along here too – noticeboards with leaflet dispensers, bins, benches, even sculpture….

dsc03165It was this part of the walk that provided the over-riding impression. The sculpture depicts three figures – two are of local people that played an important part in the establishment of the Greenway; the third, the young girl, represents future generations that will use and enjoy the path. And on adjoining boards, lots of notices about current planning issues affecting the area, not least proposals for a Harrogate Relief Road and a review of the Green Belt. One particularly heartfelt plea is worth reproducing:

dsc03167It’s clear then that in Bilton, on the edge of Harrogate, the Green Belt that so many people enjoy is, firstly, only there as a result of the tireless efforts of local people over many years and, secondly, will only remain if people continue these efforts. The Green Belt will always be coveted by developers, but it exists to provide a broader societal need. The parallels with our current situation in Leeds are obvious.  I wish the Bilton residents luck in their efforts.

Right, must get on and finish the book….. I have a hunch that it will not do the cause of preserving the Harrogate Green Belt any harm. We could do with something similar for Tetley Field!

Wrapping Up 2016

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A brief seasonal note towards the end of my blogging year.

Many thanks indeed to everyone that’s taken the time to read this blog in 2016, and in particular to everyone that has supported the Save Tetley Field Campaign, whether through volunteering their time or by objecting to the planning application.

The next important step in the Tetley Field saga is not far off. According to the minutes of the last City Plans Panel meeting (Pt 90i on p.2), the applicant wishes to bring the application forward for determination at the next Panel meeting, on 12 January. Keep an eye on the Save Tetley Field Campaign website and Facebook page for updates. Whichever way the decision goes, it is unlikely to be the end of the story….

Season’s Greetings to all for 2016. I wonder what 2017 will bring?