Major plans for new village sparks concern in Thorp Arch

Plans to build a new village on the site of a former World War Two munitions factory at the Thorp Arch trading estate have come under fire from residents.

Thursday, 19th May 2016, 9:25 am
Updated Thursday, 19th May 2016, 10:31 am
Left to right: John Richardson Chairman of Thorp Arch Parish Council, Bernard Crooks and Peter Locke Chairman of TAG - all Members of the TAG Committee at Thorp Arch Estate and Retail Park.
Left to right: John Richardson Chairman of Thorp Arch Parish Council, Bernard Crooks and Peter Locke Chairman of TAG - all Members of the TAG Committee at Thorp Arch Estate and Retail Park.

The estate has been the subject of a number of controversial planning applications by owners, Rockspring Hanover Property Unit Trust (RHPUT), in the last ten years.

The latest proposals, brought forward by St Congar Land on behalf of Rockspring, would see up to 1,000 houses, a care home, a primary school, local shops and a new community centre built on the land of the former Royal Ordnance Factory.

The scaled-down plans, which will be displayed at a public exhibition on Tuesday, see half the number of houses proposed by Rockspring than in the previous planning application, which was dropped at the start of this year.

Tony Blackburn, director at St Congar Land, said: “Having listened to feedback on the previous applications, the new proposals for Rudgate Village are significantly smaller and we hope address concerns that have been voiced before.”

But for Peter Locke, chairman of the Thorp Arch Trading Estate Action Group (TAG) and resident of Thorp Arch Park, the plans are still deemed unacceptable. Mr Locke said: “We have been fighting this very hard for the last three years. We were very relieved when the plans were withdrawn at the start of this year but now Rockspring have come back with exactly what they started.

“In some ways 1,000 houses is only half as bad as 2,000 but it doesn’t stop the full thing from being totally bad, it is just not a sustainable place to put housing.”

For Peter and the rest of TAG, the site has always been an unsustainable site for development due to its former use as an munitions factory during World War Two.

Under the advice of planning and environmental experts, Rockspring have confirmed that they will be doing a “confidence scrape” in some areas of the site to ensure the removal of any dangerous material in the ground.

But for some campaigners, this is not enough.

Mr Locke said: “This site has got huge contamination problems and they are trying to pretend it doesn’t, it’s a disgrace. They think they can get away with doing some areas and that is not the advice from the Environment Agency.

“Some of the initiations from explosive devices could be the size of a fingernail but they are still enough to blow a hand off.”

Mr Locke added that the confidence scrape needed to develop this land would completely wipe out the top soil vegetation and wildlife on a site known to be one the largest areas of calcareous grassland in West Yorkshire.

But despite the concerns, Rockspring remains confident that the land can be suitably developed.

A spokesperson for RHPUT said: “Many former Royal Ordnance sites across the country have been successfully redeveloped for new uses, including as thriving residential communities.

“We have already carried out a number of studies to assess the necessary remediation required. This work will be ongoing as the project progresses in order to deliver a safe and sustainable development. Various measures will be employed including a ‘confidence scrape’ on some areas of the site.”

Concerns have also been raised by residents over the increased traffic from the development and the surrounding road network.

Mr Locke said that it would have a major congestion impact for people travelling between Thorp Arch, Wetherby and Boston Spa.

He said: “Everyone there is going to need a car, it’s just completely adding to the already loaded highways that can’t cope.”

But Rockspring claimed that significant time and effort was being spent to address these concerns, as well as those over the ecology of the area and its green spaces.

The public exhibition will be open from 3pm to 8pm at Unit 603, Avenue D, Thorp Arch Estate, with the opportunity to meet members of the technical and design team and review the plans in full.