In a major shake-up for Beeston’s road network, Highways officers at Leeds City Council are planning to build a controversial new road through the middle of Cross Flatts Park – but insist that they are simply following the wishes of local residents.
South Leeds Life has discovered – buried on page 72 of the Highways Infrastructure and Networks Team advance report, for the Council’s executive board meeting due on 9 May – a proposal to build a connecting road between Maud Avenue (in Beeston Hill) and Wooler Avenue (in the Cross Flatts area).
The report states that the proposal follows their extensive consultation on the proposed Active Travel Neighbourhood, which would have seen the Cross Flatts area subdivided by roadblocks and traffic calming measures, to reduce through traffic, and make the area more friendly for pedestrians and cyclists. There’s more information on those original plans here.
But the report suggests that – following considerable local push back – the HINT team have concluded that local residents instead want better accessibility and shorter journey times for cars. Apparently over half of the respondents to the community surveys said they did not want to walk or cycle more, and preferred to drive as a mode of transport.
South Leeds Life contacted the Highways team for comment, and received the following from senior project officer Bill Dozer:
“Our initial aim was to reduce the amount of traffic and pollution in the [Beeston] area, and improve cycling and walking routes. But, consultation showed this is not wanted by residents, who instead want better access for motor vehicles – so we are giving residents what they want. We anticipate these plans will be approved next month, then we can get building as soon as possible.”
We spoke with local residents outside St Anthony’s and Beeston Primary Schools this week, and received largely positive responses.
Layla Zi commented:
“I regularly travel from one side of the park to the other. Turning right onto Dewsbury road is a nightmare, and the traffic can be awful – meaning it can take longer to drive than it would to walk. This new road will significantly reduce my journey time.”
Another parent – Cuthbert Frew – explained that he lived outside the area, but added:
“I travel through Beeston everyday on my way to and from work. This new road will allow me to avoid the traffic on Dewsbury road and get home a lot quicker. They have roads through big parks in London, like Hyde Park: why not here? Fantastic news.”
However, others have voiced major concerns. The South Leeds Clean Air campaign told us:
“This new road is a disaster. It will increase the amount of traffic using Beeston as a cut-through, and increase the amount of pollution in the area, especially for kids and others using the park.”
And Friends of Cross Flatts Park have also come out strongly against the road, saying in an email:
“We’ve spent years improving the park for the residents and wildlife. This road will reduce the amount of green space, make it harder for people to get around on foot and bikes, and disrupt wildlife in the area.”
Notes in the HINT report suggest that the proposals were not supposed to be publicly released until after the local election on 5 May. However, because the £2.7m of government funding allocated for the Active Travel Neighbourhoods is due to expire later this year, and consultation has already happened on the scheme, the Council have been able to accelerate the planning process. If the plan passes the executive board in May, work will start this summer; an estimated 25 trees will be felled, and the Multi-Use Games Area will be reduced in size, to make way for the road.
UPDATE: If you’re still worried, please check the date at the top of this post.
Photo: the route of the new road across Cross Flatts Park