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Keyworker flats blueprint for Leeds college site is slammed by planning chiefs

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LEEDS council planning chiefs have sent the developers of a major £40m scheme back to the drawing board - branding their blueprint for keyworker homes unfit for 21st century living,

Plans for the former St Michael’s College building and old police garages in Woodhouse were presented to the City Plans Panel.

And while there was broad support for the principle of the scheme, - which would see the original 1908 college building preserved as part of a mixed scheme for apartments and student flats - there was strongly expressed concern about the “too small” size of the ‘keyworker’ apartments.

Describing a picture of one of the flats, Coun Rachel Procter said: “It’s almost like a rabbit warren. It’s not right and it’s not viable. The students will have better accommodation than the keyworkers.”

Coun Elizabeth Nash said some elements of the design were “brutal”, adding: “It is our job to raise standards, and those keyworker flats are not up to standard. I just don’t think we should be sanctioning this for the 21st century. “We should be asking for something better. At the moment they are just like prison cells.”

Hopes were high that councillors would approve the scheme by the Watkins Jones Group, and council officers had in fact recommended approval, subject to the signing of a community contributions package.

The planning application, originally submitted to the council in November 2013, includes 262 new affordable homes for keyworkers, a range of apartments for first time buyers or those looking to downsize, alongside purpose built, managed student properties.

The plans panel heard that concessions had already been made to the developer, and that now, “there has to be something on the other side of the equation”.

Coun Martin Hamilton said there was “clearly room for further contributions” to the community,

And councillor Neil Walshaw said: “Given what they are expected to make in terms of profits, there has to be more for the community”.

However other councillors warned colleagues not to “prevaricate” as “we don’t want to throw the baby out with the bath water”.

The decision was deferred for further discussions with the developer.

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