Within the particularly woolly aim of Leeds City Council’s Local Development Framework (LDF) to plan for growth and make Leeds the ‘Best City in the UK’, (which supposedly means being fair, sustainable and inclusive), lies some potential lethal housing land availability assessments (SHLAAs). SHLAA’s were initiated by the last Labour Government, but take on new relevance in the light of the Coalition’s National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) which has relaxed greenbelt protection in the name of ‘sustainable development'; another particularly woolly term.
It does not seem to matter what political party is in power, centrally or locally (Labour, the Coalition, or Labour run Leeds and Bradford Councils) our area is under threat. Therefore, we need to get ourselves organized, to stave off these attacks on our ‘wellbeing’ and heritage countryside, and plan our own future – together with individual politicians and councillors who will support us (as it should be). One way of doing that is a neighbourhood forum for Aireborough – but there are other measures we can take
The Leeds LDF covers both the core strategy and related details of spatial planning, all the way down to individual site allocations. The core strategy is currently being consulted on, and WARD, amongst others, has seriously questioned some of the evidence it is based on; including very dubious projected population figures, and the assumption that our current infrastructure can cope – which we know it cannot.
To meet the housing needs in the LDF (and before that the Unitary Development Plan) Leeds Planning keep a database of land that could be developed – the SHLAA. This was started in 2008 and has been updated in 2011 and 2012: it has been a specific requirement from Central Government of all colours, that greenbelt is included.
Land gets on to the SHLAA in several ways, it does not have to be approved by the land owners to be listed; (SHLAA database number):-
1. Landowners put if forward for potential development – this is what has happened with Rawdon Billing (Rawdon Trust), and areas of Guiseley, such as Carlton Lane (D & R Sandha 1256), Thorpe Lane (John Ogden Properties 1148), and Coach Road (P Warner 180)
2. The council put their own land on the SHLAA eg Park Road Guiseley (2163), and Green Meadows, Bradford Road Guiseley (2044)
3. Leeds Planning themselves have put in land which is near amenities, and infills current development eg Kelcliffe Lane, Guiseley (3028), Apperley Lane (3033), Ings Lane, Guiseley (3026).
In fact, many of the areas in the SHLAA for Guiseley and Yeadon are in group 2 and 3. Much of this land is earmarked for potential from around 2021 onwards, and, it is pointed out, may not be suitable for development in one way or another. However, it should be remembered that both Moon’s Field, Guiseley and Derry Hill, Menston, have been lost to development because greenbelt land has been listed in the old UDP plans, and never taken out. Graham Booth from Menston Action Group advised, “if you snooze you lose”. Assurances, as we have found to our cost, are worthless – our only assurance is to take matters into our own hands, early. According to MP Greg Mulholland, speaking about Rawdon Billing and Yeadon Banks being put in the SHLAA, “the planning department in Leeds are incompetent”.
Once land is in the SHLAA, it is therefore worthwhile being vigilant, and building up the evidence for why it is not suitable for development: one very big reason is our overloaded infrastructure, roads, rail, and schools. As Guiseley & Rawdon Councillor Graham Latty has said, “The SHLAA is a list not an allocation; so the more noise we make the better“.
To start with local people can seek to add their own evidence based assessment of the development potential to the SHLAA, by writing to the Planning Department eg the land is now a conservation area, as is the case with some of Kelcliffe Lane. Secondly, local people could form an even noisier action group to watch over the land, and research relevant evidence about use, features, accessibility and potential: evidence is going to be king in fights against planning permissions. This, then leads to the third action; the Localism Bill 2011 has now given areas, like Aireborough, the power to form Neighbourhood Forums to do their own area’s spatial planning. This has to be done under the Leeds Core Strategy, but, it also has to be evidence based, and that is the opportunity to challenge central planners. According to Pudsey MP Stuart Andrew, “we need to take advantage of the new National Planning Policy Framework,(NPPF) to give a greater voice to local people”.
WARD is currently looking at forming a Neighbourhood Forum for Aireborough. We need at least 21 people across the area, who are passionate about the wellbeing of local people, and our social and cultural heritage – as well as wanting the best for future generations. These people need to come from all walks of life, and can either live or work in Aireborough. If this is you, please contact us and let us know you are interested. We will be calling a public meeting on this topic just as soon as we can.
Ultimately, what we may need is our own local council for Airedale and Wharfedale, or at least a parish council. But, until localism reaches that far, we have to use what means we have at our disposal.