SILSDEN residents and politicians have for many years called for a bypass to take traffic away from the heavily-congested town centre.

They have claimed need becomes greater year-by-year due to the endless onslaught of housebuilding on all sides of the town.

They point out a bypass is just one of the town’s infrastructure needs to cope with an expected 1,200 new homes, along with education, sewage and energy supply.

These needs – coupled with recently-announced changes to the way the government assesses house-building targets – have prompted calls to pause major housing developments in Silsden until a ‘masterplan’ for the town is created.

Amidst the concerns over Silsden’s ongoing growth, the bypass dream has taken a step closer to reality with the announcement that Bradford Council will investigate its feasibility.

But the building of a dual carriageway through the local landscape could spark residents’ protests even greater than the current campaign against plans for a smaller road near Hawber Cote.

In the past, the suggested route for the bypass would take it from Bolton Road on the Addingham side of Silsden; across fields above Daisy Hill, near Swartha and around the perimeter of Waterside; and finally connect with Keighley Road on the Steeton side.

The council’s latest bypass plans were publicly revealed this week by Keighley MP John Grogan after he received a letter from Steve Hartley, the council’s Strategic Director of Place.

Mr Hartley wrote: “The Council will be embarking on work over the next 12 months or so as part of the district-wide Strategic Transport Model where further consideration will be given on the subject of a bypass for Silsden, as part of potential future site allocations.”

Mr Grogan said the council’s bypass work cemented his view that the council should turn down major housing applications in Silsden until a proper plan was made for the town’s future.

He explained that Bradford Council was reviewing its housing targets after the Government recently issued new guidance about how local councils should calculate them.

He said: “It looks as if the target will be reduced by a third meaning that the target for Silsden could well fall from 1,200 new houses in the period up to 2030 to around 800. Over 400 of these have already been built or have planning permission.

“Until the housing target is reviewed and the site allocation process is completed it would be premature to give planning permission for housing to any more greenfield, safeguarded or green belt sites in Silsden.

“I will not hesitate to ask for the Secretary of State to call in and set up a public inquiry regarding any large housing developments in Silsden.”

Peter Robinson, chairman of Silsden Town Council, said there should “definitely” be a bypass due to the huge amount of present, and potential future, traffic.

He said: “We’re very concerned with the horrendous amount of traffic at peak times. It tails back to the trunk road.

“The main road through Silsden is not very wide and it’s flanked by quite high buildings which doesn’t allow pollution to disperse.”

Cllr Robinson said the town council was considering funding its own extensive survey of traffic coming through the town.

He added: “When the people in the new housing make their way out of town the congestion and pollution will be much worse. Everything adds up to a strong case for a bypass.”

Cllr Robinson admitted a bypass would spoil the landscape “to a certain extent” but said this was outweighed by the need to tackle pollution.

Fellow town councillor Rebecca Whitaker, who also represents Craven ward on Bradford Council, agreed that a bypass would take away local footpaths and the “beautiful” countryside.

But she said: “You have to balance that with the needs of the residents on Bolton Road and Keighley Road. We have had accidents in recent months.

“We can’t continue to build all these houses and not have a bypass. We have to consider a growing town and there has to be a way round.”

“The council needs to look at the town in a holistic way rather than randomly put housing in various places. The council’s priority should be to decide how many new houses are needed for Silsden. Research suggests housing need is in Bradford rather than outlying areas.”

Cllr Adrian Naylor, who sits on Bradford and Silsden councils, said that to secure funds for a bypass, Bradford Council would have to make a compelling case to the West Yorkshire Combined Authority.

He said: “I understand that at the moment the bypass is simply a line on a map. There has been no surveying, costings or feasibility studies. The line goes over a hill, the gradients change, and there are rock outcrops.”

Cllr Naylor warned that a bypass could make Silsden more attractive than ever to developers, bringing a new wave of extra housing in excess of the existing 1,200-home target.

He said: “A bypass could increase all the problems Silsden already faces, as well as killing off all the businesses in the town centre.

“If there isn’t a bypass, there’s an argument that says we shouldn’t see the number of houses expanding in Silsden beyond 1,200. But if we do have a bypass then people could make the case that it’s all right to build more houses because Silsden has become ‘sustainable’.

In recent years Cllr Naylor has led demands for a masterplan for Silsden covering housing, traffic and infrastructure, warning that electricity, gas and sewage facilities were insufficient to meet the ever-increasing demand.

The latest calls for a bypass were prompted by controversial plans to build an ‘enabling road’ connecting Bolton Road with fields at Hawber Cote earmarked for hundreds of new houses.

Some local commentators suggested this road could eventually form the starting point of a bypass.

But hundreds of other townspeople have objected to the enabling road plan, due to its potential adverse effects on the landscape, wildlife and footpaths.

Around 130 people last month joined a public protest against the proposed road and housing estate, by walking along footpaths in the threatened fields.

Silsden’s Campaign Group for the Countryside, which organised the successful walk, this week declined to comment on whether a bypass should be built.

But they highlighted “overwhelming” local opposition to development in the Bolton Road, Hawber Lane and Swartha areas of Silsden.