Six years and counting for Leeds planning row

Michael and Barbara Harrison by one of their fields under threat.
Michael and Barbara Harrison by one of their fields under threat.
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A TENANCY row between a Leeds stately home and a farming couple whose family have worked its land for more than 100 years is in its SIXTH year.

Michael Harrison’s family have run Wikefield Farm in Harrogate Road - part of the Harewood Estate - for four generations since 1890.

For the past six years he and wife Barbara – who run a beef and sheep farm as well as stables – say they have been living in limbo, not knowing when they could lose their livelihood.

The couple fear their landlords, the Harewood Estate, will evict them if the development of a large equestrian centre goes ahead.

The original planning application in 2006 was refused, but an appeal found in favour of the estate, with the inspector saying the tenants’ concerns were “insufficient justification” to refuse it.

Now the trust is asking for an extension for the time limit for work to begin.

But Leeds planning chiefs have thrown their backing behind the Harrisons, and deferred their decision on the latest application until guarantees about the tenancy are given by the landlord.

Coun John Procter said: “There is a belief by the tenant farmer that the trustees intend to serve a notice to quit. That is of concern to the panel. There are a number of options open to the trustees and they are invited to make their position clear. The estate could have happy tenants if they gave some surety to their tenants.”

Coun Graham Latty added: “We want some comfort that we are not signing someone’s notice to quit by accepting this.”

The Harrisons have questioned the “re-activation” of the proposal almost three years after the appeal victory.

At an emotional planning meeting, Mrs Harrison was in tears as she pleaded: “Please allow a small working farm to continue.”

Leeds City Council has received 1,600 letters backing the couple.

The couple say if the development goes ahead as planned, they could lose much of the land they currently farm, including some stone buildings which Mr Harrison says he built himself.

A spokesperson for the trustees of the Harewood Estate said it was “a private matter”.