Today Leeds Plans panel turned down two more applications to develop green field sites in Leeds North West. The applications were from developers seeking to get permission to build in Adel – on the fields between Church Lane and the A 660, opposite Adel Church. The Council has refused their applications. This comes hard on the heels of the Council’s refusal of permission to Miller Homes to build over 300 houses on Breary Lane East in Bramhope.
The Council is facing aggressive developers’ demands in areas like this. It has been able to refuse them – at least for the time being – in spite of, not because of, the LibDem/Tory Coalition’s National Planning Policy Framework or NPPF.
Hallam Land management were looking for permission to build up to 88 houses East of Otley Rd, with Barratt/David Wilson Homes seeking to build another 60 on the adjacent site – 148 altogether – though in an attempt to get their plans through they reduced this to 126 . The sites are numbered 14/01660 and 14/01874, and you can get the full documentation on them here. http://democracy.leeds.gov.uk/mgAi.aspx?id=51196&LLL=0
Both sites attracted huge opposition at consultation stage. Local people put up determined and well-argued cases. Among them was Adel and Wharfedale Labour Party, who lodged an objection to both sites on the grounds that the proposals did not address housing need in Leeds, that they posed a threat to an area of heritage and a potentially very important archaeological site, that they raised significant infrastructural issues – around schools, healthcare but especially road and transport – and that it was unnecessary to build on green field sites when much brownfield land is available.
The grounds of refusal echo some of these: serious infrastructural problems concerning traffic and transport are still unresolved.
But the major ground of rejection was that they were unnecessary – since there is adequate housing under development in this area. There was thus no argument for releasing protected green field land.
Neil Walshaw, Labour Councillor for Headingley, moved the recommendations to reject one, and seconded those to reject the other – speaking out for Leeds NW.
The Council has won another battle here – but not the war.
Both proposals were attempts to jump the gun. They were attempts to get permission to build on what are known as PAS sites – Protected Areas of Search – before the Leeds Site allocation Plan was finalised. PAS sites are not Green Belt, though they are designed to protect the Green Belt. Leeds Council used this protected status to turn down the proposals.
But expect the developers to fight back.
They prefer green field sites, which are easier to develop. It is difficult to get them to build on brownfield sites, which is the Council’s preference.
Miller Homes have already mounted a High Court challenge over the Council’s interim Protected Area of Search policy – which precisely protects sites such as this. The Council won that one, but Miller Homes have appealed – and the case is due to be heard in the Court of Appeal in March 2015. Wasting scarce public money which could have been spent on services for all of us.
But that’s the world created by the LibDem/Tory Coalition’s National Planning Policy Framework.
Our local MP, Greg Mulholland has frequently attacked Leeds Council on planning – and has claimed, for example, that Leeds plans contain unnecessary housing numbers.
This is dangerous party political point scoring.
It is only BECAUSE Leeds has a plan judged to have enough houses in it that it has been able to reject proposals like these.
The LibDem/Tory NPPF REQUIRES a plan with sufficient housing numbers and a five year land supply to meet them.
That plan is judged by an external inspector – and it is rejected if it is felt that it has too few houses or too little land designated.
AND IF IT’S REJECTED IT’S A DEVELOPERS FREE-FOR-ALL – what chance for sites like these – and many others – then?
Leeds Council had to draw up plans which second-guessed the Inspector. They think they’ve got it right.
The fact that they’ve identified 6.4 years land supply makes them confident they could win a legal battle against developers on decisions like this.
But it has only been possible to reject these proposals because the Government’s Inspector has accepted Leeds’ figures.
Without those figures, without that acceptance, without Leeds’ success in judging what the Inspector would accept – we’d still be in the free-for-all created by the LibDem/Tory Coalition’s NPPF – and could be forced, e.g., to provide an extra 20% buffer of new housing supply.
Alex Sobel, Labour’s candidate in Leeds NW, has welcomed the decision.
“The LibDem/Tory Coalition’s planning laws, pushed through in 2012, have given a much freer hand to developers. I am very pleased that Leeds Labour Council has been able to use what remain of its powers here to resist these developments.’
So, the battles of Breary Lane East and Church Lane are won – for the moment. But expect the enemy to regroup! And remember that Leeds City Council is now fighting with one hand tied behind its back – firmly lashed there by the Coalition’s NPPF.
What’s the real threat to the Green Fields of Leeds North West – Leeds Labour Council, or Mr Mulholland’s Coalition and its NPPF?
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