Planning chiefs reject 299 homes plan for West Ardsley

Plans for nearly 300 homes in south Leeds have been sensationally turned down by planning chiefs this week, following claims such a development would ‘annihilate’ the village.

By Richard Beecham
Saturday, 1st February 2020, 6:00 am
Updated Saturday, 1st February 2020, 11:41 am

More than 3,400 objections from members of the public had been received against outline plans to build up to 299 homes near Haigh Wood, a local beauty spot in West Ardsley.

A report from council officers had concluded the plans should be accepted in principle, and that money should be provided for nearby road and school improvements.

However, a resident claimed the plans would ‘annihilate’ the settlement of West Ardsley, while local councillors said the site was ‘unsustainable’.

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Two children as part of a march in nearby Haigh Woods in 2018.

And Leeds City Council’s city plans panel decided to reject the application due to a lack of amenities and public transport infrastructure in the area.

Applicants West Ardsley Development Consortium were seeking outline planning permission for 299 houses on four pieces of land around which span two sites included in the council’s site allocations plan – a blueprint for sites on which houses should be built in the coming years.

Speaking against the plans, Coun Lisa Mulherin (Lab) told the meeting: “Batley Road and Haigh Moor Road are essentially country lanes that cannot cope with extra traffic.

“At school times this side of Batley Road has parked cars, making access even more dangerous. The cumulative impact of neighbouring sites has not satisfactorally been considered in my opinion.

“There are very few local amenities in West Ardsley – it has no shops or health facilities, and residents have to travel to neighbouring Tingley for these.

“Haigh Woods serves as a recreational place for local residents, and provide a wildlife corridor.

“Public transport provision is poor to say the least. We have one bus an hour from Wakefield to Leeds. To say people here will be relying on bus services is stretching the local residents’ expectations.”

Morley south councillor Wyn Kidger (MBI) added: “We are not a group of people opposed to development, or a group of NIMBYs – we are a group who strongly believe in the right houses built in the right places.

“It’s not just sustainable by ticking a few boxes, but sustainable for the actual community who will have to bare the cost.

“3,400 objections is an unprecedented number, the likes of which have not been seen before in Leeds. That and the attendance here today should give you an insight into the strength of feelings.”

Local resident Andrea Parnham claimed road access to the site would not be safe for local children.

She told the meeting: “You need to be sure this can be accessed safely. Twice a day school children are exposed to dangerous amounts of traffic.

“This will annihilate the settlement of West Ardsley – it will be a concrete jungle going from Tingley to West Ardsley.

“At half past one today we had 100 people from the community – this room is still full and we could have filled it three times over.”

Representing the applicants, Graham Whiteford told the meeting: “The boundary excludes the central wooded area. Any suggestion this removes or harms Haigh Wood is misleading.

“I have read the representations from the public, local councillors and the action group. The committee should be aware that some of the points raised can’t be left without objection.

“The site is not greenbelt and never was greenbelt. The site is not protected by policy – It only covers the central woodland.”

He added that a planned £148,000 contribution from the developers to a travel plan fund could go towards paying for metro cards for residents.

Coun Kayleigh Brooks (Lab) asked: “If you have one bus an hour and you are given a metro card, you are not going to use it.”

Mr Whiteford responded: “I think you will use it if you have a metro card.”

Commenting on the application, Coun Peter Gruen (Lab) said: “My view on balance is provision is not sufficient – we need a better highways infrastructure.

“We may have a contribution for education – but we need to say where are you going to allocate those extra children to go. If you can’t say that, providing the dosh by itself is not enough.

“Public health in this city is light years away from where it should be in terms of GP surgeries. This application is not yet there in terms of infrastructure.

Coun Robert Finnigan (MBI) said: “Peter is right – the issue about sustainability is that site may become sustainable at some point, but it isn’t there at this stage.

“There might be a plan, but there is no plan for the local junctions at this time. We have to find primary school places for 150 kids.

“You all know how long that takes to build a school – the secondary school is already full.

“This site is not sustainable at this point and we need to get past the point of granting planning permission and retrofitting infrastructure.”

Coun Liz Nash (Lab) said: “When I read this report, I thought ‘here we go again, a bunch of nimbys’ – we have heard it so many times before.

“But when we visited this morning, it was quite a revelation in two respects and I will be voting against this.

“It is quite a beauty spot and this doesn’t show up in the report – local people will be quite upset about it. And all the roads surrounding the area are minor roads. They are all through estates that have already been built.

“They may be wide enough but they aren’t good enough for people who already live there.”

Coun Dan Cohen (Con) concluded: “I believe officers are fundamentally wrong on this. I don’t believe this meets suitable standards on accessibility or educational needs.”

Coun Colin Campbell (Lib Dem) said: “This is still a housing site – whatever we do today, it will still be a potential housing site. Someone will come forward with an application for this site which will be impossible, if they tick the boxes, for us to resist.

“This site, however, doesn’t tick any boxes.”

A final comment was made by Coun Al Garthwaite (Lab) who said: “This proposal is quite against common sense.

“More consultation with residents would avoid a waste of time and money in the future. A future plan if all infrastructure was sorted out might be suitable.”

Councillors then agreed to refuse the application, due to accessibility to public transport networks, amenities, impact on surrounding highway networks.

Peter Cowling, West Ardsley Action Group (WAAG) chairman, claimed the decision was a victory for ‘common sense’.

He said: “We are delighted that the council has listened to the overwhelming evidence that this development was completely unsustainable.

“I’d like to pay tribute to the hard work of our committee members and the West Ardsley community who have voted with their feet on this short sighted building plan.

“We now hope to look forward to enjoying Haigh Wood and its precious green space, but we also realise that this is just the first hurdle in preventing developments on this site.”