A councillor is offering to buy a much-disputed riverside site in Otley – for £1.
The former Bridge End Cattle Market, off Billams Hill, has just been put on sale by Dacres Commercial and Harvey Burns & Co.
Dacres’ managing director and head of land and development, Jonathan Isles, described the sale as “an extremely exciting opportunity for someone with flair and imagination”.
But the land is on a flood plain and previous plans for a housing scheme – due to serious concerns about flooding – and then car parking have been refused by Leeds City Council.
It also lies within Otley Conservation Area, and Conserve Otley Riverside Campaign (CORC), with backing from local councillors, has been campaigning for years for it to be “returned to nature”.
Responding to the news of the sale, Councillor Colin Campbell (Lib Dem, Otley & Yeadon) said: “Given that this is an important green site which complements the riverside and frames views up the valley, it would be best if it became public open space.
“As it is active flood plain and therefore undevelopable, I would hope that the owner would sell it to the community for a token payment of, say, £1 which I am willing to pay.”
The estate agents will, of course, be hoping to sell the 3.4-acre plot, which has stood empty since the cattle market’s closure in 2000, for considerably more.
In their press release announcing the sale, they highlight the site’s views onto open countryside and Otley Chevin. Managing director of Harvey Burns & Co, Lyndsay Burns, said: “We are delighted to be acting jointly with Dacres Commercial in the sale of this interesting site, which is situated close to the River Wharfe and Otley town centre.”
CORC member Penny Mares, however, echoed Coun Campbell’s doubts.
She said: “This is a welcome step, as most people who know the site must hope that if a buyer is found they will do something constructive and remedy the years of neglect.
“As the site is part of the flood plain and in the Conservation Area, the options for development are very limited indeed.
“The Government’s planning rules for flood plains severely restrict the types of development allowed. A water sports pavilion or flood-proof waterside visitor centre would be an asset for the town and might be considered suitable, but from a developer’s point of view I doubt there is any money to be made from this kind of project.”
The plot, with its remaining concrete hardstanding and fencing, was branded an eyesore for several years while CORC and others argued that it had been allowed to deteriorate since 2005 – while no feasible development proposal was advanced.
In 2010 Leeds City Council served an enforcement notice against landowners Parkmount Estates to have the area completely tidied, levelled and grassed over.
But an inspector upheld an appeal against that decision in February, 2012. Parkmount subsequently carried out its own, more limited, voluntary clearance scheme.