YEP Letters: April 4

28 March 2017.......  Kirkstall Forge rail station. Picture Tony Johnson.
28 March 2017....... Kirkstall Forge rail station. Picture Tony Johnson.
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Check out today’s YEP letters

More trains at Kirkstall Forge please

Roger Cliff, Bramley

I could not agree more with West Leeds MP Rachael Reeves’ comments that extra rail services are needed at the new Kirkstall Forge Station.

Just take the Leeds to Ilkley train that goes through the station. Every 30 minutes from Leeds, but it only stops every hour at Kirkstall. And as for the Skipton service, there is two in the morning from Skipton, and four from Leeds, including morning and evening. In fact catching the 8.25 to Skipton on Friday, to see the Flying Scotsman, I was surprised to hear the next stop was Kirkstall Forge. So I did a little experiment – as the train slowed down from 60 mph, picking 10 passengers up, and on our way, I found it only took two minutes. Modern electric trains have fast acceleration, compared to old trains. I know it’s a busy line, with Skipton and Ilkley trains, plus through trains to Carlisle and freight.

However I can see no reason why Skipton trains can’t stop every 30 minutes in peak times, and every hour in off-peak. And the Ilkley trains to every 30 minutes. They spent a lot of money building this station, so more trains please.

Too many students in Little Woodhouse

Bill McKinnon, by email

This Thursday, the planning department wants councillors to approve an application for a student block in Woodhouse Square which would provide 117 student bed spaces.

This would bring the total number of student bed spaces in Little Woodhouse to 4,816. According to a Unipol report, by 2012 students already comprised 75 per cent of the population of Little Woodhouse, the highest concentration of students of any area in the city. The rules which determine whether or not planning applications should be approved are contained in the council’s Core Strategy. Core Strategy Policy H6(B)(iii) states: “Development proposals for purpose built student accommodation will be controlled: To avoid excessive concentrations of student accommodation (in a single development or in combination with existing accommodation) which would undermine the balance and wellbeing of communities.” To get round this obstacle, the planning department is refusing to recognise Little Woodhouse as an area in its own right even though it has a boundary that was recognised by the council in February 2015 and claiming that by allowing purpose built student accommodation in the area, traditional housing can continue to be occupied by families even though Unipol’s 2012 report shows that between 2006/07 and 2011/12, the number of long term residents in the area dropped by 650, presumably as a result of residents being replaced by students.

The planning department is also ignoring the fact that in 2005, councillors agreed an earlier planning application for the same site, on condition that the proposed development should not be occupied by students. In February 2008, councillors were asked to reconsider this prohibition and refused. At the time Councillor Elizabeth Nash said she received a constant stream of complaints as a result of the high number of students in the area and that it would be inappropriate to have any more students in the area. She added: ”This is an ideal site for family accommodation.” Councillor James Monaghan said: “If we remove this condition these flats will be primarily occupied by students. There are already problems of noise and litter in the area and this condition should stay in place.” Why is the planning department so intent on cramming as many students as possible into Little Woodhouse, irrespective of the effect this has on the long term residents of the area, and in defiance of rules contained in the council’s own Core Strategy?

Reservations over homes plan

Coun Barry Anderson, Conservative Group spokesman for housing, Adel & Wharfedale Ward

I was pleased to see your coverage of the council’s Site Allocations Plan (SAP) in two articles in the YEP this week (‘Housing blueprint could shine a light on solving crisis’ and ‘Blueprint will re-shape our city’ – YEP 30/03/2017), clearly this is a major issue for the city and your coverage highlighted a number of key points which I would like to expand upon.

Firstly, my group did not vote in support of the plan. We have a number of key reservations on a range of issues. Our overriding concern is the amount of new housing that is being proposed.

The 70,000 housing target which has led to the SAP has been known to be too high for some time and we have been arguing for over 5 years that the number should be significantly reduced. Yet here we are with the ruling administration forcing the plan through with the 70,000 target even though population projections from both the ONS and Edge Analytics suggest that this number is simply not necessary.

As a result 34 per cent of these new houses will be built on the greenbelt and in areas where the developments will be hugely unpopular with existing communities.

Housing developers play their part in this process but the council needs to ask itself why it has stuck to the 70,000 figure despite so much opposition not just from us but from residents and community groups throughout Leeds?

This leads me to my next point, the consultation on the pre-submission changes ended on 27 March, yet the council was asked to approve the submission of the draft SAP only two days later, how can these latest consultation submissions have been properly considered?

You do not have to go back far to see that the administration has recent history, they did not listen to consultation responses on the NGT scheme and that was knocked back by an independent inspector, it is hoped that the Inspector can see through this plan and come to a sensible decision on the way forward.

There are other concerns around infrastructure; will there be enough schools for this volume of housing, what about GP surgeries?

Will the roads have capacity?

We will be fighting hard for our residents at the public examination later in the year and we hope that someone will finally see sense and see that the plan has a fundamental flaw: Leeds does not need 70,000 new houses.

Buyer beware at ‘Soggy’ Bottom

Dr Michael Lowry, Chair of Cookridge Residents Action Group

Serious concerns over hasty and ill-advised new property builds are increasing.

Residents have for many years raised concerns over Taylor WImpey’s development on Moseley (Soggy) Bottom in Cookridge, which is a known flood-prone site, that contributes to increased flow of water in times of high flood risk such as December 2015 and January 2016.

Despite all evidence provided by experts warning against this development, it was approved by Leeds Council, and is a disaster waiting to overwhelm future and existing residents. Those who think they will be protected by guarantees need to think again - very carefully.

The Consumer Rights Directive does not cover property.

Residents on new developments naively rely on a 10-year warranty insured by the NHBC or similar provider.

However that 10-year ‘promise’ might not help – developers only have to rectify problems that arise in the first two years following completion. After that, purchasers have to claim on the warranty provider’s insurance which only covers serious 
structural issues (not flooding!).

New homeowners can appeal to the voluntary Consumer Code for Home Builders adjudication scheme, however, it costs £120 to lodge a complaint via the scheme, whose findings are not legally binding.

What a mess. Affordable new homes ? I think not. The words ‘I told you so’ spring to mind.

Think again over train guard plan

John Appleyard, Liversedge

As a regular rail user I have written to my MP Tracy Brabin to oppose proposals to remove the guarantee of a guard on Northern rail services.

The loss of these guards means that users will no longer have staff to protect passenger safety and act in emergencies, such as derailments, evacuations, fires and driver incapacity.

These guards provide advice and assistance and allow disabled passengers to embark and disembark at unstaffed stations.

Think again Northern Rail.

Working for mass transit scheme

Coun Richard Lewis, Leeds City Council Executive Member for Regeneration, Transport and Planning

According to Martin Phillips (YEP, March 18) myself and Coun Blake “spent a small fortune” employing ‘experts’ (his apostrophes) to decide what would be the best possible transport scheme in Leeds.

The body I think Mr Phillips is referring to is Expert Advisory Panel (and who could possibly think Professor Greg Marsden from Leeds’s Institute of Transport Studies, David Brown the Chief Executive of Transport for the North or Rosslyn Colderley the England Director North from Sustrans aren’t experts?) and we’ve got their services without costing the public purse anything more than minor expenses!

Mr Phillips goes on to claim that the expert panel endorsed tram-train as the way forward and “Councillors Blake, Lewis et al chose to ignore these experts”.

Well, the Transport Experts Group have made no such recommendation.

Mr Phillips then endorses Greg Mulholland’s tram-train to the airport, which will effectively ensure that the lion’s share of the £173.5 million earmarked for public transport in Leeds will go on a single scheme that will benefit a minority of Leeds residents, using a technology that is untested in the UK and that will delay and real improvements for a decade or longer.

Rev Robin Paterson (YEP, March 30), on the other hand, thinks we should spend all of the money on trams.

Never mind the failure to convince government about this in the past- let’s have another go instead of undertaking work now to make a difference to people’s lives.

Notwithstanding this, he seems to think councillors (whether through the council or the Combined Authority) can intervene immediately to resolve transport issues.

He might want to have a word with central government, who are working to keep areas without elected mayors from doing just that!

Until we get real powers we can only work with bus companies who of course will look to maximise their profits. But I’m sure Rev Paterson will be delighted to know we have worked with First to agree that works to improve reliability will happen at the same time as new low emission buses and other improvements are being rolled out in the city. Not 250 new buses mind you, but 284.

Rev Paterson also pours scorn on our ambitions to bring a mass transit scheme to Leeds, but how else does he think we are going to achieve this but by working with everyone willing and able to bring about what will be a major financial and logistical hurdle?

So we have to ask ourselves, should we throw the £173.5 million after this now, or should we deal with the concerns Rev Paterson quite rightly raises about the existing transport system and simultaneously seek wider support to bring about a mass transit scheme – whatever that may be - in the long run?

What now for NHS patients?

Councillor Peter Gruen, Ward Councillor for Crossgates & Whinmoor Ward, Chair of the Adult Social Services, Public Health & NHS Scrutiny Board.

And so now we know. Simon Stevens has spoken.

No, not the government or even the Secretary of State; instead it is the top civil servant (thanks Simon; the gong is in the post) who tells us what the NHS will do and more importantly, what it will not do in the next two years.

We now know that there will be an attempt to get back to the four hour A&E target of 95 per cent, but we do not know by when and we are told that cancer waiting times will be less, but we don’t know by how much or by when?

All this is to be achieved by relaxing the targets for so called routine operations.

We are told that patients will have to wait for longer than 18 weeks, but we are not told how much longer?

Nor was much said about the continuous pain suffered by most people waiting for operations.

So are we trading one set of misery for another?

And did you notice that nothing was said about the alternative?

The Chancellor has just made his choices and the NHS was not one of his priorities.

I can only express the aspiration of local Scrutiny Boards to monitor the new targets and to hold the Secretary of State to account.