Stunned residents in Barwick and Scholes have been warned to expect ‘massive development’ of new homes in their villages and the surrounding area over the next 15 years.
They have also been told they will be almost powerless to stop builders in their tracks, thanks to new planning laws.
In a letter delivered to their homes by volunteers, Barwick and Scholes Parish Council has shocked villagers with news that land has been identified for more than 3,500 new homes in Scholes, plus a further 500 in Barwick.
A further 13,500 new homes could be built on land near Manston, Stanks and Whinmoor, some of it now protected within the Green Belt.
In Scholes, which now has around 1,000 homes, residents fear the rural identity of their village may be lost forever as developers build on green fields currently separating it from East Leeds suburbs.
If approved, the widescale development will begin during the next five years and, over the next decade, will increase the size of Scholes more than threefold.
Councillors are saying the Government’s new Localism Bill, which received Royal Assent in Parliament last month, gives developers a green light to build “wherever they consider it most profitable”, even on protected green field sites.
“We have a responsibility to our community now and for future generations,” says the Parish Council newsletter, adding: “The only way to gain some measure of control over future developments in our parish will be through a Neighbourhood Plan.
“Although this would not enable the prevention of proposed developments it could help to ‘limit the scale and character’ of proposed new home building.
“Our objective must be to protect and enhance the environment in our villages. It is essential that any housing is phased to ensure that all the necessary infrastructure is put in place, usch as roads, schools, shops and medical services, together with all the other facilities required by such massive expansion in our community.
“This would be funded through a Community Infrastructure Levy, a financial contribution developers would have to make.”
Once a Neighbourhood Plan has been produced it would need to be approved by residents in a local referendum.
Parish councillors have decided to create a Steering Group to oversee the preparation of a Neighbourhood Plan and Village Design Statement and are appealing for volunteers to help them.
The group’s first meeting will be held next Wednesday, December 14, at St Philip’s Church, Scholes, starting at 7.30pm.
Its next step will be to invite local residents to attend public meetings to discuss the issues raised.
“It is the view of the Parish Council that a Neighbourhood Plan has to be produced if we are to have any say in the future shape of our community, otherwise decisions will be taken out of our hands,” the newsletter concludes.