TWO FRIENDS have launched a music and poetry project to help raise awareness of the proposed East of Otley development.

Cathy Theaker and Fiona Hilton, who both live in the town, have collaborated on their project in support of the ODD (Otley Development Dream) campaign which is highlighting fears that the scheme will have a "devastating" effect on the local environment.

The recent public consultation proposals identify a 50 hectares site on greenbelt and former greenbelt land. The plan is to construct 550 new-build houses on the Irish Fields and a relief road between the A659 and the A660. Residents are urged to study the “soon to be published” East of Otley hybrid planning application and submit informed comments to Leeds City Council.

Cathy and Fiona, who both live close to the Irish Fields, knew each other through Otley’s well-established open-mic singing community.

Cathy said: "Over the summer, we came together with this joint venture to express our passion for this little - known beauty spot with its diverse wildlife and quiet location for dog walkers and how dismayed we were when we heard about the current building proposals. We had both joined the local ODD campaign group and felt compelled to spread some publicity about the building plans.”

Fiona added: "We realised at the beginning of the project that the coronavirus restrictions would prevent us performing live together so we had to quickly rethink and update our IT skills. The result was an online You-Tube video with Cathy’s song and my poem underpinned by spectacular visual footage of the Irish Fields.”

The two friends hope their joint project will highlight the beauty of the popular wildlife area and the urgent need to preserve its unique features for the future benefit of Otley’s community.

They say the current Environmental Agency maps show the Irish Fields have significant areas at a high risk of surface water flooding. They believe that removing mature trees, hedges and pastureland to build a large scale housing development will exacerbate the problem.

Cathy pointed out that in 2019 Leeds City Council passed a Motion to declare a Climate Emergency in the city, together with the government target to cut CO2 emissions by 68% by 2030.

She added: “If Leeds City Council were seriously committed to action about the Climate Emergency, they wouldn’t be concreting over the Irish Fields.”

Fiona said: “I really came to appreciate the benefits of this local green space during the recent Covid pandemic so I’m worried about the impact of the loss of this little green lung for Otley residents. The Irish Fields provide a precious habitat for diverse wildlife which will be destroyed unless more protective planning measures are built in from the start.”

Otley residents wanting to be kept informed are invited to email their name and postcode to

Contributions to the East Otley Legal Advice Fund can be made at

To view Cathy and Fiona’s video:

In January the Otley East Consortium held a public consultation into the scheme and said the response had been excellent with hundreds of people commenting.

Members responsible for bringing forward the hybrid development are Leeds City Council, Persimmon Homes and Lovell Homes. Further phases of the development scheme may be brought forward by other landowners and companies included within the consortium.

As the consultation was coming to an end a spokesman said: "The current public engagement process is taking place to highlight the scheme and advertise the process, prior to the submission of a formal planning application to the local authority. It provides an opportunity for residents, stakeholders and interest groups to tell the East of Otley Consortium what is important to them in the emerging proposals.

"The development is proposed to come forward with a detailed planning application for the relief road, the first phase of residential development, the relocation of sports pitches, landscaping and open space and outline permission for the balance of the allocated site."