Scholes residents were urged to attend a parish meeting yesterday evening organised by Save Our Scholes, a group formed by local people to fight the threat of major housing developments in and around their village.
Developers have already drawn up a blueprint which, if approved by Leeds City Council, would eventually see 3,500 new homes built in Scholes, a village which now has only 1,000 properties. Residents fear such large scale development would destroy the rural identity of Scholes, turning it into a sprawling East Leeds suburb. Notices distributed to Scholes homes make it clear there will be only one major topic on the agenda: the Neighbourhood Development Plan. This is currently being produced by a steering group set up by the Parish Council but including strong input from volunteer residents.
The SOS group is keen to ensure that local people are kept informed about the progress of the steering group, which some observers say is too slow. “Most importantly,” says the notice, residents are anxious that “the interests of Scholes are protected by using the knowledge and experience of our local planning expert.”
This is clearly a reference to former parish councillor George Hall, a Scholes resident who has robustly defended the village at numerous planning enquiries. Speaking at a recent public meeting he outlined the huge scale of development which Scholes could face during the next few years. Mr Hall recently resigned from the steering group, prompting the Chairman of the Parish Council, Ben Hogan, to comment that he had done so as a result of conflict between Barwick and Scholes residents about what should go into the Neighbourhood Development Plan. Several parish councillors expressed the hope that Mr Hall would reconsider his decision and rejoin the steering group. But Mr Hall told the Wetherby News this week that although he had been invited by residents to lead the Scholes delegation on the group it was for the Parish Council to decide whether they wish him to do so - and on what terms.
Once approved by at least half the electors in the parish, via a local referendum, the development plan will have legal status. It is viewed by the Parish Council, and by Leeds City Council members representing Barwick and Scholes, as the best possible defence against huge, unwelcome housing developments. Also, it will give local people the power to insist that approved housing schemes are accompanied by improved public services such as primary schools, health centres and better bus services.