Bid to save historic Leeds canalside rejected

RULING: Land fronting the Aire and Calder canal, at Stourton Point, Haigh Park Road.
RULING: Land fronting the Aire and Calder canal, at Stourton Point, Haigh Park Road.
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Attempts by Leeds City Council to protect the city’s historic canalside from housing development have been thrown out by a High Court judge.

The council had wanted to preserve the land fronting the Aire and Calder canal, at Stourton Point, Haigh Park Road, for the use of barges transporting minerals in bulk.

However a judge has declared that the two national planning policies which the authority based its decision on were in fact unlawful.

The ruling boosts the hopes of developers Towngate Estates Limited, who say the use of the site - which includes three historic wharves - for loading and unloading canal boats would be unviable and wants it allocated for housing development.

The future of another site off Bridgewater Road South has also been put in doubt by Judge Penelope Belcher’s decision. D.B. Schenker Rail (UK) Limited, which holds that land under a long lease from freeholders Network Rail, wants to see it redeveloped.

The case centres on two controversial policies within the council’s Natural Resources and Waste Local Plan (NRWLP), which it adopted earlier this year after a public inquiry.

By those policies, which ran until 2028, the council had sought to protect the Stourton Point land as ‘historic wharfage’ and the Bridgewater Road South site for development of new railway sidings, or possibly a canal wharf.

The council had insisted that its policies were in line with Government objectives to switch from road to rail and canal transport.

The authority pointed out that the Aire and Calder is one of the few canals able to carry large freight barges,

In a city as large and complex as Leeds, the council argued, it was essential to safeguard existing, planned and potential wharves and railheads suitable for handling the bulk transport of minerals.

The council also stressed that it had no intention of ‘indefinitely sterilising’ the two sites and, in line with the inspector’s recommendations, had agreed to review the position in five years’ time.

However, overturning the policies, Judge Belcher ruled that they conflicted with other national planning guidance, which encouraged avoiding the long-term safeguarding of rail and canal transport sites where there was no realistic prospect of them being used for the protected purpose.

A Leeds City Council spokeswoman said after the hearing that the decision would now be referred back to an independent planning inspector.

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