Traders in Otley are breathing a sigh of relief after a Government inspector rejected proposals to build a huge shopping complex on the outskirts of Leeds.

It had been feared that the town centre would lose trade if plans to build major stores on 50 acres of Leeds University playing fields at Bodington Hall, Lawnswood, went ahead.

But the proposal, which formed part of the Council's planning blueprint, the Leeds Unitary Development Plan (UDP), has been rejected by the Government inspector who carried out the public inquiry into the plan.

He has urged that the scheme, which was opposed by thousands of people including Otley Chamber of Trade and Commerce, be thrown out because it would "harm the character and appearance of a prominent open area."

Trevor Backhouse, who as president of the Otley chamber of trade in 1995 led opposition to the scheme, welcomed the Government inspector's decision.

"It is not just good news for Otley, it is a triumph for common sense," he said.

"Out-of-town shopping complexes are good for shopping but they do not provide the other amenities like doctors, fire stations and hospitals that towns do."

Mr Backhouse added that he believed there were enough out-of-town shopping complexes - and planners should take notice of Government guidelines to call a halt to them.

"There is nothing wrong with out-of-town shopping centres, but I think we've exhausted them now. I went to the White Rose shopping centre on a Monday and it was absolutely empty. I don't know how the shops survive," he said.

Councillor Phil Coyne, chairman of Otley Town Partnership, also believed it was good news for the town.

He said: "We in the town partnership were extremely concerned. This is good news for the vitality of the town centre. It would have encouraged a great deal of traffic movement."

Otley MP Harold Best (Lab, Leeds North West) who strongly opposed the Bodington scheme, added: "I am delighted to learn of this excellent news.

"This is a triumph for good sense and for local people whose views I was determined would be heard. It is also good news for Otley town centre whose future will now be more secure."

Mr Best said he now looked forward to the campaign to defend all of the green space on the Bodington fields site.

He said: "In my opinion it is a major part of the green corridor in North West Leeds."

l A 20-month public inquiry into the UDP ended in July 1996 and the government inspector has now issued his recommendations in a 2,000 page report. The official report will be available to the public from March 22.

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