Leeds planning chiefs issue ‘build communities not just houses’ plea to big-name developer

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Leeds planning chiefs have thrown down the gauntlet to a major national developer to work with them to create housing which is “more acceptable to communities” - rather than wasting resources and cash on pushing rejected schemes onto neighbourhoods that don’t want them.

As reported in the YEP earlier this week, controversial proposals for 700 homes in East Scholes - along with three others rejected by Leeds City Council - will be the subject of a public inquiry in early 2016.

Speaking about the Scholes scheme ahead of a pre-inquiry meeting with the applicant, the council’s director of planning Martin Sellens told a City Plans Panel meeting: “We have sat down with the regional director of Barratt’s and actually said to them ‘why are you proceeding with this proposal at this moment in time?’

“Do you really want to put effort and resource into it?

“We have got many other sites in Leeds which are fully acceptable in principle, which you could work with us [on].

“But at the moment, you are spending time pursuing this, we are spending time pursuing that.”

He added: “It’s all a waste of time, We could be much more usefully employing our time doing things with brownfield sites where we need to bring forward developments.

“Reputationally, does a house builder want to be known as always pushing at our boundaries - or make housing that is more acceptable not just to planning authorities but also to local communities?”

The meeting heard that the application is for the “significant” 32-hectare site Scholes which - should the planning inspector quash the council’s decision - would “almost double the size of Scholes”.

The panel voted to write a formal letter to the developer laying out members’ concerns.

And they criticised an attempt by the applicant to push through a slightly amended scheme with 650 homes without consulting the local community or the plans panel.

Coun Neil Walshaw said: “Developers trying to achieve things through the back door is uncomfortable”.