Why Haigh Woods 299 homes plan could be resurrected

The decision to reject plans for 299 homes near an area of woodland in West Ardsley could be overturned next week, according to a document from Leeds City Council.

Thursday, 14th May 2020, 2:18 pm

More than 3,400 objections from members of the public had been received against outline plans to build the homes near Haigh Wood, before it was rejected in principle by councillors back in January due to concerns around a lack of amenities and public transport in the area.

However, a report set to go before a virtual meeting of the council’s city plans panel, set to determine the reasons for refusal, now includes an option to accept the proposals in principle due to ‘additional information’ from the applicants about the site.

The document, set to be discussed next week, includes two options – one to refuse the application due to transport and accessibility issues, and another to defer and delegate to the chief planning officer for approval.

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Two children protest against the plans to build on Haigh Woods in 2018.

The report states: “The additional information has significant implications for the original resolution and therefore a dual recommendation is made.

“Since the approval of the minutes of the meeting, further information has been received from the applicant and in addition to setting out the chief planning officer response to the provisional reasons formulated by the panel for refusing permission, the further information is put forward to members for consideration.

“The report sets out detailed reasons for refusal based on the issues members raised at the last panel meeting, however, a dual recommendation is put forward for consideration as the further additional information provided by the applicant strongly supports the original chief planning officer’s recommendation.”

Information was received in February 2020 from the applicants’ agents Walker Morris LLP. The report summarised the letter, which claimed the proposed reasons would go against the council’s own planning policy.

The report summarised the letter from Walker Morris LLP thus: “It is regarded that the resolution is unreasonable and of significant concern given the implications such a decision has on the implementation of the recently adopted development plan.

“The decision sends a wrong signal to those within the development industry and undermines several years of working with the Council to adopt a sustainable strategy for this site.

“Contact with the housebuilding industry is ongoing and serious concerns over investment in Leeds is raised due to this application disregarding the clear aims of the Development Plan;

“The matters motioned to form the basis of the refusal have all been clearly

identified at the Examination in Public of the SAP.”

The ‘SAP’ refers to the site allocations plan – a council document which outlines various sites across the city earmarked for development, of which this site is one.

The report claims the correspondence also includes an agreement for the applicant to make further financial contributions for improvements to local bus services.

It added: “The applicant has discussed the existing bus services within the area with West Yorkshire Combined Authority (WYCA) which has outlined potential improvements that could be made to the local bus services,

and their costs, that would improve the overall accessibility of the site and wider area.”

The first proposed reason for refusal was that surrounding roads were too narrow, and that this could lead to highways issues around the site. However, the report confirms the road widths conform to the authority’s own planning guidance.

Another proposed reason for refusal was that the applicant offered a lack of detail in how it would mitigate the extra highways issues in the area. But the new report confirms that money would be secured by the council to spend on work to alleviate future traffic problems.

The third proposed reason for refusal is around accessibility, with complaints made around the infrequency of bus services in the area. Since that meeting, the applicant has committed to contribute £750,000 over five years towards local bus services.

It adds that refusal could ‘jeopardise’ the planning authority’s five-year housing supply could mean development outside of the authority’s site allocations plan would need to be considered for development to meet housing targets in future.

The report concludes: “Although members have previously resolved that the application be deferred to allow the chief planning officer to prepare and bring back to panel detailed reasons for refusal, the additional information and offer from the applicant must also now be considered and taken into account.

“Members are therefore requested to further consider the application in light of the additional information and determine whether, in light of the further clarification and additional information (and increased offer from the applicant) they wish to support the officer recommendation to grant permission, subject to the required planning obligations and conditions outlined in the first officer report.

“Alternatively, if members are still minded to refuse the application, they are asked to consider the impact such a refusal may have upon the delivery

of the SAP sites across the city and whether in light of the additional information and offer received and implications of each refusal reason outlined in the report, they wish to support this recommendation or instead amend or withdraw one or more reasons for refusal.”

The SAP, which was approved at a public inquiry last year, sets out a number of sites across the district which the council has deemed acceptable for development, so it can meet government housebuilding targets in the coming years. Having an SAP in place is said to give local authorities more power to reject planning applications on sites which it deems unsuitable. The four pieces of land on which the development was going to take place span two sites included in the SAP.

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

But it was rejected by plans panel members following thousands of objections, with residents claiming the plans would ‘annihilate’ the settlement of West Ardsley.

The item will be discussed at an online meeting of the council’s city plans panel. For more information, visit: https://democracy.leeds.gov.uk/ieListDocuments.aspx?CId=947&MId=9973