'Weird and wonderful fantasy world' - Leeds councillor's remarks as 450 homes on former Churwell farm debated

Plans to build 450 homes on a former farm near Morley have been debated, with one Leeds councillor saying they now find themselves in a "weird and wonderful fantasy world".

Saturday, 30th October 2021, 11:09 am

A reserved matters application for the site off Victoria Road in Churwell had gone before the Leeds City Council's City Plans Panel back in July, but concerns around drainage issues and the future site for a school led councillors to defer their decision.

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But according to a document published last week, work has since been done to give the council more information. It meant planning officers were recommending the panel now approved the plans from Persimmon Homes in principle.

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An artist's impression of the new homes to be built on a former farm in Churwell, near Morley.

In their latest meeting, panel members claimed they were not entirely happy with the designs but noted the application met the legal requirements that the council had to work within.

Coun Neil Walshaw (Lab) told the meeting: “This application has come on an awful long way, particularly in the areas of climate and energy. I acknowledge we are in a transitional period with policy.”

But Coun Robert Finnigan (Ind) said he did not believe the site was sustainable and would be voting against the recommendation.

“We find ourselves in a weird and wonderful fantasy world at this particular point,” he said.

“I don’t believe this site is sustainable. The one road in and one road out reaches our own policy for up to 199 houses.

“The impact on CO2 emissions – this site is currently absorbing 118 metric tonnes of CO2 per year. Granting permission for this development would lead to 36,000 metric tonnes being produced to build the houses.”

Other councillors pointed out that if this was the standard that every development was measured against then no houses would ever get built.

Coun Caroline Gruen (Lab) said: “Listening to Robert’s rationale, I have sympathy with it – but the bottom line is that we have to build houses and this is in front of us now.

“It’s probably the greenest application for a housing development that we have had put in front of us, and on that basis it would be hard to turn it down.

“I do hope we move onto much greater things in terms of modern urban designs. I know these developers have their hands on some very desirable sites that are coming our way.”

Coun Peter Carlill (Lab) said the proposed development was not the “most beautiful estate” and he would not want to live in the area, but he did not find it offensive personally.

“We are not deciding what the best design of houses is, we are deciding whether this application meets the legal framework,” he said.

“On the grounds of carbon, you could argue that we shouldn’t build anything ever.”

The development would be made up of 23 two bed apartments, eight two bed bungalows, 102 two bed semi/terrace houses, 125 three bed semi/terrace houses, 84 three bed detached and 108 four bed semi/terrace/detached houses.

The site would also contain a 1.8 hectare area of land for a primary school to be built in the future.

Coun Dan Cohen (Con) said: “I believe everybody that lives in our city is entitled to the best-designed properties. I don’t believe these are the best-designed properties.

“On the issue of the appearance, I still have issues – I don’t think they are good enough. I have no problem with the overall layout and scale, but the appearance is still problematic.”

Coun Gruen responded: “I agree with Coun Cohen’s analysis, but I just don’t think an inspector would.”

Coun Elizabeth Nash (Lab) said: “We have heard from Coun Finnigan that he does not want this scheme at all. It is in the Site Allocations Plan and we have agreed in principle to have houses on this site.

“But it is our job to make sure we do get the best for any area. I don’t think we have got the best here.”

Despite the concerns aired, the majority of members voted in favour of the scheme, with an additional stipulation to stop parking on grass verges.

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