OVER the last few years, I have been following your articles and readers’ letters concerning housing developments in the Aire Valley and, in particular, in and around Silsden and I can no longer refrain from putting pen to paper.

Back in the 1990s I was a member of the then Keighley Business Forum and we met regularly for lunch at the Keighley Rugby Union Club at Utley. On each occasion we had an invited speaker to talk on various subjects, all connected with business.

Leading up to the general election of 1997 we had a bright young politician offering a bright new future which was different to all of the past administrations in Westminster, he was quite plausible. His name, Tony Blair, and we all know that he was duly elected as our new prime minister.

The new Government quite quickly engaged Arup Consultants, a national company, to develop a plan to build approximately 12,000 houses in a 12-mile stretch of the Aire Valley between Skipton and Shipley.

One of their consultants, involved with devising the Aire Valley Plan, was invited to speak at one of our luncheons and left us with copies of the plan. He went into detail about where the developments would be built and, if I remember correctly, there were around 1,500 to be built in and around Silsden.

After his presentation there was a question-and-answer session to which I stated that the present infrastructure was not coping with the existing properties, numbers of people and vehicles and asked how the existing infrastructure and services would cope with the additional 12,000 homes. His answer was “with that amount of development it would attract new roads, railways, community centres, doctors’ surgeries, dentists, schools, additional sewage treatment works, increased electrical, gas and water supply networks and everything else required to support the new developments”. Maybe he was thinking that we were south of the Watford Gap.

Do you remember Daniel Marc Hooper, better known by the nickname of Swampy? He was at the forefront of objectors for any new road developments which, incidentally, used less land than housing developments, where is he today? We could do with his enthusiasm in fighting for the “promised infrastructure”.

In the past I have been quite vocal in objections to large-scale developments around Sutton and Cross Hills – not as a NIMBY but as someone who knows that infrastructure will not be enhanced and so any new development will, and does, overload the existing congested situation.

In my experience, when highways are asked for their reports/concerns/objections on proposed developments they only look at the immediate location ie where the traffic will exit the development onto the local highway in the village or town. Very rarely will they object. They never look at the bigger picture like the increased pressure on existing bottlenecks. I have never seen any objections from Yorkshire Water for any developments nor any significant increase in capacity built. Is there any wonder that raw sewage is frequently allowed to flow into the rivers and smaller water courses even when we have not had any rain.

In 1984 I was told, by the then Yorkshire Water Authority, that they were going to bring into law that every property, old and new, had to have a water meter installed to help save water, and that charges for water, used through the meter, would include a charge for increasing the sewerage infrastructure and water control. So are we, that are on water meters, already paying extra to build the infrastructure? It was never put into law or building regulations.

We do need more housing but it must be truly affordable for the young ones to make a start in life. The current system just does not work. Any new build needs to be incorporated with infrastructure development. I fear it is too late for this because we are quickly running out of space.

Regarding new roads, the Aire Valley trunk road was first proposed in 1968 to alleviate congestion in the villages and towns along the old road. This is before any really serious development in the valley. The Kildwick to Crossflatts section (missing out the vital Hard Ings Road in Keighley) was the first part built 1986 to 1988 followed by the second section, Crossflatts to Cottingley Bar, built 1998 to 2003 and the last bit, Hard Ings Road, completed December 2022. In reality, the road is not complete because it originally was to join up with the northern end of the M606.

In 1996 the then Sutton Parish Council voted, by a majority, to remove the protected status of land that had been protected since the 1930s for a bypass of Cross Hills and Glusburn and included the provision of land to bridge over the railway to remove the congestion of the railway crossing at Kildwick. It was a named vote in that each councillor’s name was recorded whether they voted for or against the motion in an attempt to change any dissenter’s vote.

During the debate it was discussed that the Aire Valley trunk road would be extended, as a dual carriageway, onto Skipton and up the valley following the A59 and the A56 to join the M65 on the west side of Colne, thus negating the need for the protected route and a bridge over the railway. We still wait. Since that vote there have been two attempts to fill some of the fields with housing, in Sutton, which would have added to the potential of flooding and also added a danger to children of the nearby primary school and also pupils walking to and from Sutton to South Craven School.

In Silsden, the road through the centre has been resurfaced and is like a new road so the powers-that-be will be thinking that they have built the bypass. Silsden is on a very convenient if not a major route from the Aire Valley to the Wharfe Valley and so is in desperate need of a bypass. Addingham got theirs opened in October 1990.

Increasing the capacity of the Airedale railway line is not as simple as it looks. If you add more stations, it will reduce the capacity because of the length of time trains are stationary in more stations. To lengthen the train is possible, to a certain extent, but then the platforms would need to be lengthened or only allow certain doors to open for embarkation and disembarkation. If the train is full and standing room only, then you may miss your stop. To increase the number of trains, especially at peak times, would mean a complete change of the signalling system from Leeds to Skipton and beyond. To reopen the line from Skipton to Colne would take traffic off the roads but they have been arguing the case since 2001. The Aire Valley trunk road took 54 years from inception to its present form so good luck to them on that one.

Need I say anything about community centres, doctors’ surgeries, dentists, schools, gas (not a current favourite) and water supply networks (reservoirs). An increase in the electrical distribution is currently under construction in Silsden but will it be enough for all those electric cars? Don’t get me started on that one.

It would not surprise me if landowners, developers, planners and councillors had a copy of the above-named report and were working towards the 12,000 goal (we cannot be far off now) and I would call this development by stealth because any one development, on its own, would not attract any investment in infrastructure.

The latest £100,000 offer to help towards the building of the bridge over the A629 to join Silsden with Steeton is a drop in the ocean compared with the now inflated cost of £9m plus.

Brian R Clough, Sutton-in-Craven

* Email your letters to alistair.shand@keighleynews.co.uk