Leeds local elections 2023: Garforth and Swillington Independents commit to ‘fighting urban sprawl’
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The group, which currently holds all three city council seats in Garforth and Swillington, claims it has an “excellent track record” in delivering for local people.
In a pre-election pitch to residents, group leader Councillor Mark Dobson said he and colleagues were helping to protect Garforth and its surrounding areas from “urban sprawl” and from losing the ward’s “uniqueness”.
Councillor Dobson, a onetime Labour frontbencher who left the party in 2017, also took aim at his former colleagues for Leeds’ Year of Culture 2023, which he branded a “waste of money”.
In an interview on Thursday, Councillor Dobson said: “First and foremost we look after the ward and we try to make sure the ward is protected, in terms of it being a semi-rural community. We’ve always got one eye on what we believe to be avaricious and inappropriate development.”
Councillor Dobson cited the battle over the council’s site allocations plan (SAP), as an example of how being free of the Labour whip had helped his group fight for Garforth and Swillington.
The plan, which earmarked sites for housing across the city, had to be heavily altered in 2020 following a High Court ruling and opposition councillors complaining of overdevelopment. In the end, 37 greenbelt sites were removed from the SAP.
Councillor Dobson described the original proposals as a “developer’s dream”.
He added: “We do worry about urban sprawl and we don’t worry about it because we’re NIMBYs. We worry about it because we don’t see any supporting infrastructure. We don’t see anything except a strain on already creaking services, school provision and highways.”
Councillor Dobson said that besides daily “bread-and-butter” work helping local residents, his group had also been an effective voice on “big ticket” issues affecting all of Leeds, citing a pledge secured to retain independent oversight of its child safeguarding procedures, which have come under heavy scrutiny this year.
They were also the only Opposition group to formally oppose the scale of the administration’s 4.99 per cent council tax hike, having argued for a smaller rise to take effect from this month.
Echoing remarks he made publicly earlier this year, Councillor Dobson also attacked Leeds’ Year of Culture, which is being held this year after Brexit disqualified the city’s efforts to become the official European Capital of Culture 2023.
The Labour administration says the festival is putting Leeds on the world map and that public spending on it has been more than matched by private investment.
But Councillor Dobson said: “It’s common knowledge we’re vehemently opposed to it. Simply put, for Leeds to go after Capital of Culture after a torrid and messy Brexit negotiation was a nonsense.”
Garforth and Swillington Independents in numbers
Current seats on Leeds City Council: 3/99 (6th largest party)
Number of candidates standing in 2023 local elections: 1 (out of 33 wards)
Year first Garforth and Swillington Independent councillor elected in Leeds: 2017
Garforth and Swillington Independent candidates standing in your area
Garforth and Swillington – Suzanne Jane McCormack