New dual carriageway for east Leeds – a planner’s nightmare?

Planned new housing in brown, possible route of road in blue

Planned new housing in brown, possible route of road in blue (click to expand)

Years after it was first dreamed up, steps are being taken today to turn the idea of a brand new orbital road for east Leeds into reality.

At a meeting this lunchtime senior councillors are expected to give the go-ahead to a £150,000 feasibility study that will identify where the dual-carriageway road (dubbed the East Leeds Orbital Road) might go, how much it could cost and how it might be built.

You can get a rough idea of the possible route from the map on the right.

Why now?

Housing. It’s planned that 5-7,000 new homes are going to get built in and around the area known as the East Leeds Extension (the brown bits on the map) over the coming years. That’s 5-7,000 more cars on local roads that are busy already. And they obviously won’t be able to cope.

Hence the new road, which, according to a report drafted for today’s Leeds City Council meeting is “critical to the delivery of Leeds housing growth” and is going to “provide the additional capacity on the highways network necessary to accommodate this scale of development”.

Sounds simple? It isn’t. Getting the road built has all the makings of a …

… planner’s nightmare

Not because of local residents’ disquiet over the scale of the housing development that’s prompting the road’s construction. Not because of the doubts being expressed over whether such roads actually relieve congestion. And not because the road’s already being seen by some as an expression of an overly car-centred approach to transport in the UK’s most congested conurbation.

All that stuff will get raised officially when the public gets to have its say on the road.

For the moment the biggest nightmare for those doing the planning must be the prospect of getting the landowners and developers involved to sign up to an agreed route, an agreed schedule for the road’s construction, and an agreed divvying up of the costs.

“Roof tax”

£20,000 "roof tax" per house?

£24,000 “roof tax” per house?

While we should have a better idea of costs in 12 weeks – when the feasibility study is completed – the council report estimates that the 4.3 mile road will cost over £100m. (One council official has said it could be as much as £120m.) And that’s without taking into account any land the council may have to buy.

Where’s that money coming from?

There might be hand-outs from central government or European funding streams. And there might be some cash forthcoming from the recently set up (but already over-subscribed) West Yorkshire Transport Fund. There might.

The most likely scenario, however, is that the council will have to take out a loan for the bulk of the costs and get developers to pay it back over time via a sort of “roof tax”.

Inflated house prices?

Which makes the maths fairly simple: if the road costs £120m and 5,000 houses get built around it, that’s £24,000 per house that developers would have to pay; if 7,000 get built, then the contribution per house is down to £17,000.

So, to give an example, the consortium that’s planning to build 2,000 new homes between the A58 and the A64 would have to cough up between £34m and £48m in “roof tax” for the mile and a half stretch of dual-carriageway that’s going to run round the edge of its new estate. 

2,000 homes planned for the brown bit between the A64 and A58

2,000 homes planned for the brown bit between the A64 and A58

On top of that they’re going to have to fork out cash so the estate gets the infrastructure it needs – schools, health facilities, bus services, shops, green space, etc etc. And then provide a proportion of “affordable” homes.

If the developer is going to make his required profit, all those costs (roof tax included) will have to be passed on upfront to prospective house-buyers. Will the market stand the resulting inflated prices?

Who knows.

No development till road finished?

Thorpe Park - six years' wait for new development?

Thorpe Park – six years’ wait for new development?

The other big questions facing the planners are: do they phase the construction or build the road all in one go?; if it’s phased, which developments get to benefit from an early start?; if it’s all in one go, do they allow any development along the route before the whole road’s finished?

Local councillors sitting on the East Leeds Regeneration Board want no development to take place till the road is ready. And the earliest that could be is in over six years’ time, given that the council says it’ll take at least three years to plan and prepare and another three to build.

“Members of the Board have expressed clear views that there is a need for the ELOR to be provided in its entirety in advance of any development in the ELE and Thorpe Park,” says the council report going to today’s meeting.

Will developers be prepared to wait at least six years before the first brick gets laid on their first new house? Will the owners of Thorpe Park be prepared to wait six more years before achieving their goal of diversifying into leisure, cafes and a supermarket?

My guess is “no”.

Nothing clear enough to consult about

As far as the public is concerned, there’s been no consultation about the new road yet -because the council says there’s nothing clear enough to talk about.

“The Council has not undertaken any public consultation on specific proposals for the ELOR as for the reasons set out in this report, there is currently limited clarity on the options or opportunities for progress and therefore at this stage limited scope for dialogue with the community,” the report says.


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7 Responses to New dual carriageway for east Leeds – a planner’s nightmare?

  1. Alison says:

    Is this in any way related to the post you wrote maybe a year ago about a plot of land that needed access and there was a dispute about who would build the road to it? I seem to recall some of the names of sites mentioned on the map above being mentioned then… Sorry to be vague!

    • Yes, this road (the ELOR) is going to be connected to that road (the Manston Lane Link Road, MLLR) which I wrote about in October 2011 here.

      It’s complicated! For what it’s worth my guess is the sequence will go something like: 1) Thorpe Park gets planning permission for revamped business park 2) Thorpe Park owners build MLLR and the very bottom bit of the ELOR (including the vital bridge over the Leeds-Selby railway line) 3) the rest of the ELOR gets built, starting at the A58 and working south

  2. freedomnow66 says:

    Why wouldn’t planners wait??? U said LCC would take a loan out and then over time collect the “roof tax” have planners laid out cash???? For these sites?? If so didn’t u have a article on developers sitting on land and not building on it!!! They may want to get on and realise there investment but with no access they’ll be hard pushed to sell houses… if ure saying however it’s LCC IN there ultimate wisdom to restrict development until the last cone has been removed, then I agree, LCC have some dumb ideas at times, if they allowed development sooner they would get back loan money sooner, less interest etc but these are the same bunch who built the new kirkstall road only to build a bottle neck at cardigan fields… they muddy a quite simple vision…..

    • You’ve got me confused! And I was confused enough already! Not really sure what you mean by “Why wouldn’t planners wait?”, but … they’re under loads pressure to get more houses built, the sooner the better, and the East Leeds Extension presents a big opportunity to start chipping away at their targets.

      The land being sat on that I was talking about in the story here was brownfield, where developers don’t feel they’d get the right returns.

      It’ll be interesting to see what the LCC planners’ recommendation is after this feasibility study. I’ll be surprised if they follow local councillors’ advice and hold up all development for at least six years.

  3. Dr Adrian Morgan says:

    There is a new campaign to reinstate the railway from Cross Gates to Wetherby and onwards to Harrogate, Ripon and Northallerton for the Northeast and Scotland. Ideally there would be stations at Penda’s Way and Whinmoor or whatever the new development is called depending on how close the new line can be built to the development.

    The trackbed from Cross Gates to the A64 is protected but as development has occurred on the trackbed at Scholes and Thorner, a new alignment has to be built further west approximately along the line of Thorner Lane and the outer orbital road.

    Irritatingly, Leeds City Council and West Yorkshire ITE don’t want to know about reinstating railways. If developers have to pay for a road by imposing a roof tax, then I would like to think that the same would be done for a railway as far as the northern limit of expansion. Present cost of new build double track railway would be approximately £6 million per mile and reinstated track about half that with stations about £5 million each. We are looking at about two miles of each and two stations.

    A fast electric train at least every 20 minutes to Bradford via Leeds would be very attractive.The problem is that Cross Gates to Leeds is almost at full capacity and needs making into four tracks all the way into Leeds and nobody wants to pay for that. Sickening mentality.

  4. k says:

    Great i’ve recently moved from the seacroft to the last house on the road to scholes.
    peace and quiet just a small stream at the side of my garden an old dissused railway line and then farmers fields untill you get to Scholes.

    Now i learn someone wants to build a new road on those farmers fields, new houses this side of the road and someone is talking about opening the railway line up right next to my house.
    Yes i do mean right next to my house, if i jumped over my hedge i’m on the railway line.

    Where do the people who want to build this road think the traffic is going to go. Down Barwick Road to the A64 into Leeds or to the A64 near the Red Lion pub and then into Leeds or to the A58 and back to the A64 and into Leeds or to the A58 and along the very busy ring road. Get my jist your just going to put more traffic on to already congested roads. Someone said an extra 5-7,000 homes an extra 5-7,000 cars, i think you will find at least another 10,000 cars as most families these days have 2 or 3 cars.

    What about all the houses getting built my side of the road and parks and fields being put on the scholes side of the road. Fantastic, how about making Scholes, Barwick in Elmet, Aberford,Thorner, Shadwell, Scarcroft, Wike, Bardsey and all the other villages just a little bit bigger and a few houses spread about in the already proposed areas. Spread the new homes out evenly let every body take the weight. Don’t build a new road spend the 100 million improving the exsisting roads and subsidising public transport. Make better what we already have.

  5. Pete Fisher says:

    No respect for history. This is smack in the heart of one of the 5 possible locations of the birthplace of the legendary King Arthur. The youngest son of Mascuid Gloff, once King of Elmet, who resided in the fort which occupied Limekiln hill overlooking X: 439,507;Y: 437,137 . I can’t believe there is no protection for these historic locations, even if they are contested by bigger tourist destinations.

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