The following is an update on the progress of the campaign for the footbridge set within the context of new developments in the village itself:
Summary The campaign to build a footbridge across the River Wharfe in Burley-in-Wharfedale has reached an important stage as: planning permission was ganted by both Harrogate Council(December 2014)and Bradford Council (February 2015) after thorough consultation the Burley Bridge Association (BBA) became a registered charity in August 2015, committee members becoming Trustees and including representation from the Parish Council and Community Trust all the main organisations representing the Burley community have now publicly committed themselves to supporting a new footbridge the challenging task of finding sources of funding for the construction and long-term maintenance of the bridge has now begun This is happening at a time of planning for considerable change in the village including the Greenholme Mill development and associated footpath improvements, the Greenway walking and cycling route between Burley and Otley and the proposed expansion of housing on the west side of the village. This briefing seeks to update public knowledge of recent developments about the bridge campaign in the context of these other developments and aims to promote discussion with landowners and local residents in order to seek solutions for existing anti-social behaviour on Leatherbank and the river area which are thought to be made worse once a bridge is built.
Becoming a charity We became a charity in August 2015. Our charitable objects state: 'For the public benefit to build a bridge over the River Wharfe at Burley-in-Wharfedale on the site of the stepping stones which will provide safe year-round access to rights-of-way in the Nidderdale Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty'. Being a Charitable Incorporated Organisation (CIO) brings a number of advantages but also responsibilities for the BBA. We will be able to claim gift aid in future from individual donors paying tax and apply for the large grants only available to registered charities. These will be necessary to fund the bridge and its life-time maintenance. Trustees will be publicly accountable for their activities in achieving the chartitable objects. The work of the BBA will become more visible through the Charity Commission website (www.gov.uk/governmentorganisations/charity-commission) as well as with our own site (www.burleybridge.com).
A history of public support There has been a high level of support for a footbridge across the Wharfe by village residents dating back to the C19th. More recently: a petition by a local resident in 1975 of approximately half the households in Burley attracted 2000 signatures supporting a footbridge a Burley Bridge Association survey in l998 of Burley residents found a majority of 4 to 1 in favour of a bridge the Parish Council Village Design statement consultation in 2005 (where residents were asked to prioritise 37 options for village improvements) led to the footbridge proposals gaining second overall priority an extensive leafleting campaign in May 2009, asking residents to indicate if they were in favour of a bridge or not, only led to one objection being received residents and ex-residents generously contributed £23,700 between 2012 and 2014 towards the cost of designs and preparation of plans for Bradford and Harrogate Councils most recently, 83% of representations during the 2014 public consultation period about the plans for the bridge were supportive, the majority of these being from Burley residents or from neighbouring communites.
Organisational support Local councils and bodies working on behalf of Burley residents and businesses have also given their support: The Rights-of-Way Improvement Plan of Brsadford MDC states 'A major cross-boundary issue is the crossing of the River Wharfe at Burley-in-Wharfedale and this links to the cross border issues with regard to high density settlements on the Bradford side and the lack of connection in some cases on the NYCC side'. The Rights of Way Improvement Plan of North Yorkshire CC recognises 'the high potential demand for access to North Yorkshire from neighbourhood urban fringes and other populated areas of West Yorkshsire, expressed by the wish for more river crossing points such as Burley-in-Wharfedale, as it would provide a strategic route into the Nidderdale AONB'. Burley-in-Wharfedale Parish Council confirmed on 14th March 2012 'its commitment to a safe, year-round crossing of the River Wharfe'. It gave full support for the bridge during the 2014/2015 planning process with a number of their recommendations included as conditions in the planning approval. Parish Council commitment to the project is referred to in the recently drafted Neighbourhood Plan for Bradford MDC. Burley-in-Wharfedale Community Trust (BWCT) has indicated its support for a safe crossing of the Wharfe. Most recently, the BWCT has offered to take over responsibility for the maintenance of the bridge from the Burley Bridge Association following construction and this was accepted by Bradford MDC planners as a realistic and sensible proposal. Burley and District Chamber of Trade (BADCOT) has given its support for a bridge including through planning representation. Individual traders in the village regularly display posters for the BBA and businesses in the area frequently contribute to fund-raising activities. Nidderdale Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (NAONB)gave its support for the bridge during planning representation.
Addressing concerns Landowners and residents close to the site of the bridge have, however, historically expressed concerns about the bridge and their fears that it would exacerbate existing anti-social behaviour around the site and its approaches. As a result of objections raised during the public consultation, both Planning Committees attached conditions to the approval of the plans in order to mitigate some of the issues raised. Although concerns about the siting, design, safety and durability of the bridge were not considered in the main to have validity, bridge designers, Ramboll UK, confirmed that some modifications could be made, for instance, to improve accessibility. The siting of the bridge to directly link public rights-of-way on both banks was acknowledged as the only viable option and ensures that bridleway access is not compromised. While the river is one of the fastest rising (and falling) river in the country, as evident during the storms and subsequent flooding towards the end of 2015, the bridge has been designed to fully withstand such extreme conditions and meets all Environment Agency requirements and national safety standards for such structures.
Litter A consistent concern by local residents is that increased footfall generated by the bridge would lead to an increase in litter. Regular litter collection by the BBA on the north bank (Askwith side), Leatherbank, the Goit and surrounding footpaths since March 2015 confirms that litter does currently pose a significant problem in the area, particularly on Bank Holiday weekends and during school holidays. The problem is mostly managed well in the rest of Burley, thanks to our street cleaner and by well sited and regularly emptied litter bins, recently extended in number. However, Leatherbank, the Goit and the land of both sides of the river are private property and thus, technically, outside of Bradford Council's responsibility for litter collection and bin emptying. Irrespective of the installation of a bridge,the existing problems may get worse due to the increase in walkers that the Greenhome Mills and Associated footpath development will bring along with the projected substantial increase in housing on the west side of the village. A proposal is currently under discussion, therefore, which would see the installation of a new litter bin by Bradford Council at an agreed location between Leatherbank and the Goit. The bin would be regularly emptied by a small group of volunteers as the bin would be sited on private property and the bagged contents collected by the local authority household waste collection service. Co-operation between the Burley Bridge Association, the Parish Council, Bradford Council, the Community Trust, West Riding Anglers, Greenholme residents and landowners could ensure the proposal is tried and fully evaluated over the forthcoming year.
Car Parking Leatherbank and local residents indicated to planning officers their concerns that a bridge would lead to an increase in unauthorised parking along the verge of the privately owned road which is single track for most of its length. This potentially inhibits access by emergency and larger delivery vehicles and can restrict passing of local residents' vehicles. There is current restriction on access from the Generous Pioneer roundabout by two sets of partial gates and some private road signage. There is a third gated access at the end of Leatherbank with further private road signage. The Leatherbank verge is also regularly mown to indicate it is private property. However, these provisions do not appear to deter car-using visitors to the river from unauthorised parking, particularly during Summer wekends and school holidays. The Burley Bridge Association is willing to pay for improved signage, robust enough to deter vandalism, to try and address the issue. We are also prepared to look at funding other deterrent measures, in agreement with local residents, which could help resolve the problem. It is acknowledged by the Parish Council that public car parking in the village is generally a problem, and providing better opportunity for car parking for visitors to the river area is under consideration for both the east and west end of the village.
Increase in visitor numbers to Burley Weir area Concerns have also been expressed to planners that the bridge may be promoted as a tourist attraction rather than just being a means by which walkers cross the river. This would potentially increase the numbers of visitors to the area using the bridleway and footpaths to the river and detract from the pleasure of living on a quiet lane in a peaceful and attractive part of the village. The Burley Bridge Association accepts that publicity following the construction of the bridge will inevitably lead to an initial increase in visitors but believes that this will moderate over time. The sole purpose of the bridge campaign has been to create a safe year-round crossing of the river in order for the public to freely access the many walking opportuities on the north bank within the Nidderdale Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. Inevitably, year-round access will, therefore, result in an increase in walkers, including between Autumn and Spring when access is normnally prevented due to high water levels. Walkers are acknowledged by most people, however, as being generally responsible in terms of litter and unlikely to be the source of other anti-social behaviour. While the bridge will inevitably feature in walking booklets and route descriptions, there is no wish by any Burley organisation to promote the bridge as a tourist attraction. The BBA is keen though to discuss with landowners and local residents how to address the existing conflict between the north bank and river area being viewed as a public recreational area during the Summer months and the reality of it being actively farmed, private property and a wildlife habitat.
Expansion of Recreation and current plans Burley continues to grow as a community and the pressure on all the green spaces in and around the village for a variety of recreational use continues to increase. Thanks to the work of the Parish Council, the Community Trust, predecessor organisations and bodies such as Wharfedale Naturalists, there is now a legacy of attractive, accessible and environmentally important open space in walking distance of the village centre. These include the Village Green, Burley House Field, Sun Lane Nature Reserve, Scalebor Park recreation area and the Recreation Ground. Smaller, but equally important areas, such as the Pudding Tree Garden, the Jennings Bequest Garden on Main Street and the recently renovated Fountain area at the corner of Main Street and Station Road are also valued local assets enjoyed freely by all residents. All these areas are well managed, largely through voluntary effort. West Riding Anglers also spend considerable volunteer time improving and maintaining the popular Goit footpath between Leatherbank and Greenholme Mill and enhancing this important wildlife habitat. Burley Walkers are Welcome are working with Bradford Council and Ramblers to secure a number of footpath improvements around the village to improve accessibility and encourage use.
Current Plans The proposed Greenway cycle and walking route between Burley and Otley will provide a major recreational asset for the village. Steps to secure the route are well advanced with the Parish Council recently acquiring part of the old railway track route from Bradford Council. A riverside walk has been approved as spart of plans for the Greenholme Mill development. The Environment Agency (EA) is planning with a number of partners, incuding the Burley Bridge Association and Anglers' groups, to install a fish pass at Burley Weir. Once Otley fish pass is completed, Burley Weir will be the main impediment to fish migration and spawning in the Upper Wharfe. The EA hope to undertake construction work at the same time as the bridge is constructed to minimise disruption to the environment and to local residents. A bridge will enable significant access to additional recreational opportunities north of the village in the Nidderdale Area of Outstandidng Natural Beauty. Transfer of responsibility after construction to the BWCT will ensure the bridge becomes fully integrated into the village portfolio of well managed and maintained community assets.
Next Steps The Burley Bridge Association acknowledges the importance of involving and reaching agreement with local landowners and residents about how to proceed in this next phase of the project. This is to ensure a bridge does not make existing anti-social problems in the area worse, that construction is undertaken in a way which minimises disruption and is sympathetic to their particular needs and issues and that any use of private property is carefully planned and appropriately compensated for. The high level of co-operation between village organisations and the BBA should give local residents some optimism that through working together we can find solutions to existing anti-social behaviour and ensure that a bridge does not exacerbate these probjems in the future. We will be making direct contact with all interested parties to offer opportunities to discuss the issues raised in this briefing over the next few weeks. If you would like more information about the bridge in the meantime, please see the Q and A section on the BBA website: www.burleybridge.com.
If you would like to arrange a meeting, talk with a BBA trustee or want to comment on the contents of this briefing, please contact David Asher on 01943 862965 or firstname.lastname@example.org