Critical battle in unwanted housing

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As your ward councillors we are acutely aware of the deepening concern over proposed housing in Wetherby Ward. We have all represented Wetherby for many years and we have a clear understanding of the value local resident place on maintaining the market town atmosphere of Wetherby and maintaining clear boundaries and the unique character of the villages that make up Wetherby Ward.

The next weeks and months see two particularly important housing issues given a public airing. The first is the planning appeal into the proposals at Thorp Arch, the so called Rudgate Village that provides for up to 874 new homes in Thorp Arch. We have opposed these plans from the start, they would create major infrastructure issues such as additional congestion and highways problems on top of pressure on other services such as schools, doctors and dentists. Furthermore delivering such a large proposal would alter Thorp Arch forever. By the time this article goes to press the appeal will already have started and we will all be there to speak against the plans and look to ensure that this development does not go ahead and that the existing community in Thorp Arch is protected.

From a more strategic viewpoint there is an equally important date looming, the Leeds Site Allocation Plan (SAP) will be subject to public examination starting on October 10. This is vital and our planning lead Coun John Procter has been leading the way on this issue for more than five years and on planning in Wetherby for over 20 years. The focus of this work is to pressure the ruling administration in Leeds into reducing its inflated 70,000 housing target for the city of which 5,000 is planned for outer North-East Leeds. We have repeatedly called for this number to be reduced and recently some success was achieved as the Council initiated a partial review of the core strategy that could see numbers reduced and the length of the plan extended to 2033.

It is a great pity that the Council’s ruling administration did not listen in November 2014, upon adoption of the Core Strategy, the plan that underpins the SAP and set the 70,000 housing target, Coun John Procter submitted an amendment that would have seen ‘an immediate review of overall housing numbers, in light of population projections and ministerial statements, to start in tandem with the forthcoming consultation on site allocations and to be completed before specific site allocations take place.’ Sadly we were ignored leaving the inflated target in place and a requirement to find 5,000 new homes in Wetherby and Harewood Wards.

Planning has been and is one of our main priorities, Coun Lamb has chaired the Neighbourhood Planning Group that is now on the verge of submitting a Neighbourhood Plan for Wetherby for approval and as the Outer North East Community Committee Chair Coun Wilkinson is kept aware of all planning matters. The Neighbourhood Plan will help to protect Wetherby from unwanted development and this approach has been extended to other villages in the ward who we have strongly encouraged to develop neighbourhood plans of their own. Indeed the first Neighbourhood Plan to be approved in Leeds was the excellent plan produced by Clifford, which was formally made in March 2017, followed up by Collingham in June 2017.

We are determined to fight the corner of communities in Wetherby Ward and the coming weeks and months will be extremely important in defending our area from unwanted developments. We cannot promise to win every battle, but we can promise to do our best for you and future generations in Wetherby Ward.