A LEEDS councillor has been suspended by his party after challenging a controversial planning decision about redevelopment of a former school field site.
Councillor John Illingworth, who represents the Kirkstall ward and also chairs a council watchdog investigating the Leeds Children’s Heart Surgery controversy, has been suspended for three months by the Labour group at Leeds City Council. He will carry on as an independent while he appeals the decision.
The YEP understands that the row relates to Coun Illingworth’s objection to a recent planning decision to approve housing on former school field land at Victoria Road, Headingley, formerly part of Leeds Girls’ High School. It is thought the manner of his objection breached party rules, The Labour group has refused to comment.
The YEP reported in April that a plans panel had “reluctantly” approved the proposal for housing and a supermarket following legal advice. Any refusal was expected to lead to an appeal which the council was likely to lose.
Councillor Illingworth told the YEP: “It’s a ludicrous over-reaction, I don’t know what has motivated them.
“I simply fired off an email objecting to an officers’ report, and said the council could do more to protect the field - there were plenty of other things we could do legally to turn it down and play for time.
“I didn’t know it was against policy.
“There is an appeal process I have started and I am expecting to win it.
“But I now can’t compete for any chairmanships, It has created a vacancy for chair of the health scrutiny board, That is the practical effect of what they have done.”
When approached by the YEP, the Labour group on Leeds City Council declined to comment, as did the Civic Hall central office.
“It’s upsetting,” Coun Illingworth added. “It’s not a very comradey thing to do, but politics is a big girls’ and big boys’ game . I shall take it in my stride and start putting my appeal together.”
One supporter of Coun Illingworth said he was a “heart surgery hero” and “probably the most active and hardest working councillor we have”.
“He’d tried really hard to help us save the Victoria Road sports facilities. It’s unbelievable.”