Green belt planning approval slammed

A WETHERBY councillor has criticised a government decision to allow 400 houses to be built on greenfield land even though Leeds City Council had turned down the plan.

Coun John Procter (Cons, Wetherby) told the Wetherby News that the decision to allow the housing development at Grimes Dyke, between Scholes and Thorner, to go through on appeal was “absolutely the wrong one.”

The decision could now force Leeds City Council to change its policy of vetoing building on greenfield sites.

The Grimes Dyke development was one of a series allowed by the government after Leeds City Council had refused permission, embroiling the council in costly legal action. As a result, the council is now reconsidering its housing policy.

Leeds City Council had initially refused permission for the houses in December 2009 but the plan went thro

ugh on appeal last month, sparking huge concern among local residents and the parish council.

Coun Procter said: “It was absolutely the wrong decision for this area and I think it will be disastrous for local people. There are numerous sites across Leeds where housing could be built – brownfield sites that need developing and when you have used those up then look at other sites.

“I think local people would be horrified if they knew what the council is facing in the coming months with regards to these planning applications. These developments would completely change the face of our rural area on a massive scale.”

The decision by Secretary of State Eric Pickles to allow 400 houses to be built at Grimes Dyke follows a similar development to build more than 150 houses on greenfield land at Church Fields in Boston Spa, which was initally refused by Leeds City Council but overturned later on appeal.

The future housing growth policy for Leeds was discussed at a meeting of Leeds City Council executive board this week.

In recent months, the council has lost a series of appeals brought by developers who were refused planning consent to build on greenfield land. In some cases, costs were awarded against the council, which now faces legal bills running into tens of thousands of pounds.

A spokesman for Leeds City Council said: “This meeting follows a series of planning appeals where house builders have been successful in overturning council decisions to reject schemes on greenfield sites.

“The council has argued that these sites should not be built on while substantial area of brownfield land remains undeveloped.”

“In the face of these rulings, and to protect against costly legal fees, the council has to reconsider its current policy and open up more sites to housing developments.”

l DO you agree with Councillor Procter? Should local green belt land be protected at all costs? Email or write to us at 9 Westgate, Wetherby, West Yorkshire, LS22 6LL.