OTLEY residents are being urged to vote for a plan which will give the town ‘more control over its future’.

A referendum on the Otley Neighbourhood Plan, which has been seven years in the making, will be held on Thursday, February 20.

If a ‘yes’ vote is returned the document will be officially adopted by Leeds City Council which will have to refer back to it, as will developers, on future planning applications.

Polling cards have been delivered and the Town Council is hoping residents will show their support.

Council leader Councillor Richard Hughes (Lib Dem, West Chevin) said: “The council will be campaigning for a yes vote to give Otley more control over its future. The plan is a good one and the product of extensive community consultation.”

Councillor Mick Bradley (Green, Danefield) said: "A neighbourhood plan gives the town more say over how Otley changes, as inevitably it will, over the next decade.

"It can’t do everything but over the next ten years will, I believe, make Otley a better place to live than if we don’t have one.

"As a Green councillor I’m particularly keen to protect and enhance the green environment and our wildlife the plan includes many ways to do this."

The council has posted a lengthy statement on its website in support of the proposals. It says: “We all know that Otley is a special town.

“But Otley is also a town subject to change – some wanted, some not. Otley’s population is set to grow significantly. New houses are set to be built, and not always where the community would like.

“Otley Town Council and community volunteers have been working hard to prepare an Otley Neighbourhood Plan to guide and shape future development over the next ten years.

“The plan recognises what is special about Otley and looks to protect this and improve on it wherever possible. It also works to build a more sustainable town by protecting employment and welcoming more, encouraging new and improved facilities, and promoting walking, cycling and public transport.”

The statement concludes: “Not all change is wanted and not all developments supported – the planned housing at East of Otley is a case in point.

“And while the plan can’t reverse these plans, it can and will exert a strong influence over how development takes place.

“The Otley plan cannot dictate housing numbers or dispute the sites on which houses are built. Neither does the plan have legal clout outside of planning matters.

“In other words, the plan cannot stop change: but it can help control it so we get the best possible deal for Otley and for you, its residents.”

Copies of the document can be viewed at the Otley Core offices on Orchard Gate and online at www.otleytowncouncil.gov.uk.