Will Dewsbury Riverside make a positive contribution to the future of Dewsbury?
Dewsbury Riverside is a major residential development planned for the south of Dewsbury and is one of the cornerstones of the North Kirklees Growth Zone - together with an industrial development at Chidswell.
The 106 page Dewsbury Riverside Delivery Framework was published recently by Miller Homes, the main developer. Here are our first thoughts.
Where is it? Here's the general location relative to Dewsbury Town Centre;
The basis of the North Kirklees Growth Zone is that with the increased income from the additional business rates from Chidswell and the new housing bonus received from central government from the 'up to' 4,000 homes at Dewsbury Riverside the council will then be able to fund other improvements in the area.
But first, the Local Plan for the whole of Kirklees including this development has to be approved by the government inspector, a process just entering its second phase at the time of writing, and part of that process is to demonstrate that this proposed development is desirable and achievable.
Want the whole story?
Click the button to download the Development Framework in pdf format
We don't propose to comment on whether Dewsbury Riverside is a good or a bad thing. There are plenty more residents who will do that over the coming months. The fact is that the idea has been on the planners radar for the best part of ten years so it's not going away any time soon.
The rationale behind it is that there will be additional jobs and economic activity in the short term during the construction phase - then more long term spending in North Kirklees due to the increase in population. These are proven effects that happen when such developments take place and are to be welcomed.
Regeneration for Dewsbury?
While there is every likelihood that Dewsbury Riverside will go ahead with the consequential increase in economic activity in the area, there are numerous vague claims about the regenerating effect on Dewsbury. But how will these claims actually convert into actions?
On page 72 there are claims that the development 'Will tackle long standing issues such as overcrowding, community cohesion, social exclusion and deprivation'. Exactly how will this take place? If people are living in poor quality housing in deprived areas in Dewsbury then how will be able to relocate to new housing which no matter how attractive to others who can afford it will probably be unaffordable and out of reach.
One has to conclude that this is likely to be a very diffused effect. 4,000 new homes means 4,000 homebuyers with the financial ability to actually buy a house. So we will be adding perhaps 12,000 additional population, all in a very defined geographical area. The potential for continued separation rather than integration is very clear and the social and community aspects of the development need some careful thought.
The entire Delivery Framework document treats the development in isolation and identifies 4 'green gateways' (we're not sure but we think that means road junctions with some trees added) through which the development is reached.
The obvious route to and from Dewsbury Town Centre is along Forge Lane and then straight down Savile Road. But to where? Exactly the same issues of town centre access and parking will continue to exist unless the existing problems of the Town Centre are dealt with.
Later, after about 13 or 14 years and when about half or 2,000 houses have been built - so probably about 2035 - then the Dewsbury Riverside Strategic Route will be considered running from Low Mill Lane in Ravensthorpe, crossing the river and railway by a new bridge and then passing around the north edge of the site to connect to Forge Lane and Savile Road.
Something like this:
New River Calder Bridge
Now that's interesting. For years there has been talk of an M62/M1 link road which has been fiercely resisted by some. Any link road has to cross the river at some point.
The most recent reference to this was in the Leeds City Region Growth Fund Submission 2016 which contains the following map on page 49.
North Kirklees Orbital Route
It's not very clear because this map on part of a page is all that could be found. However, it does seem to show the North Kirklees Orbital crossing the river somewhere around Scouthill or the north end of Ravensthorpe Road.
Which is exactly where there is a 'green gateway' to Dewsbury Riverside - which is connected to the bridge along the north edge of the development. In other words, the New River Calder Bridge is an obvious crossing point for the North Kirklees Orbital.
The consequence of this is that the dual carriageway(?) of the North Kirklees Orbital together with all its traffic appears to run down Lees Hall Road and Ravensthorpe Road to the river before bearing left across the north edge of Dewsbury Riverside to the bridge.
Isolating the Town Centre?
Among the numerous references to the contribution that Dewsbury Riverside will make to the Town Centre, nowhere is there any reference to this strange conjunction of the 2 plans, one for the housing development from Kirklees and one for strategic roads by Leeds City Region.
The effect of a dual carriageway running directly across the access route between Dewsbury Riverside and the Town Centre is obvious. Dewsbury has bitter experience of this with the ring road that has had such a negative effect on the town centre.
We're not going to jump up and down saying this should not be done. But residents need to be reassured that the planners are conscious of the problem and are going to prioritise solutions. We don't want band aid solutions after the event. We want wholehearted solutions so that residents who choose to walk or cycle to the town centre can do so along green and pleasant routes that the plan envisages for the main development.
Pedestrian and Cycle Routes
Similarly, there is much talk on page 58 of 'could include a cycle path' and ' cycle routes could be explored..'.
These sentences should include the words 'must' and 'will'. To have such a major development completed without giving priority to the basic facilities that enable the health and wellbeing policy priorities of Kirklees - and fail to use the opportunity to connect up the various cycle routes that arrive in Dewsbury but do not connect effectively through it would be an opportunity lost.
We're not objecting to the development, the planning process will grind on through and come to a conclusion, either yes or no. But if Dewsbury Riverside is to happen then we think connectivity to the rest of Dewsbury needs more thought.
What Do You Think?
Leave a comment below. And to help give the people who live and work in Dewsbury a bigger voice then join The Dewsbury Partnership.