Leeds North West MPs Continue Fight to Saveguard Green Belt!

Two of WARD’s most supportive MPs have recently been in action to protect the interests of the local communities in Aireborough from the unwelcome attentions of greedy developers.  Immediately preceeding the recent Parliamentary recess both Greg Mulholland, MP for North West Leeds, and Stuart Andrew, MP for Pudsey (which includes a large part of Aireborough), spoke in Parliamentary debates about green belt protection and localism.

Asking a question of Nick Boles concerning green belt protection, Greg asked the following:

“Greg Mulholland (Leeds North West, Liberal Democrat)

We need more social housing and more affordable housing, but does the Secretary of State understand the anger in north Leeds at the fact that Labour-run Leeds city council is bringing forward plans to concrete over much of our green belt with hundreds, if not thousands, of new homes?”

Nick Boles replied as follows:

“Nicholas Boles (Grantham and Stamford, Conservative)

The protections in the national planning policy framework for the green belt are very, very clear and very, very strong. Only in exceptional circumstances can development take place on the green belt, and the local authority will need to consult extensively with the local community to gain its support for any proposed change in the green belt.”

Both the above quotations are from Hansard, the official record of Parliamentary proceedings.  Unfortunately Greg did not receive a reply in writing but it is recorded in that official document.

In a heated debate on 17 July  Stuart Andrew made the following short speech in which he was restricted to  three minutes:  again the quotation is from Hansard:

“Stuart Andrew (Pudsey) (Con):

Over the past 10 or 20 years, every part of my constituency has been affected by overdevelopment. The old mills and industrial sites have been replaced with massive new housing, which has put huge pressure and strain on the local infrastructure. Our roads are congested and our schools are bursting. We now have a massive issue in the Guiseley area, where the council is desperately trying to find places for schoolchildren for the coming year.

Local anger and frustration with the local planning system cannot be overstated. Too many people believe that planning is something that happens to them, and when localism came in there was a feeling of hope that they would be able to have some input. Local communities’ ability to develop neighbourhood plans is welcome, and I am fortunate that in my constituency rafts of people have come together to try to face the challenges head on and to take advantage of the opportunities to shape the future of their towns and villages. In Aireborough, Jennifer Kirby is leading a group that has provided workshops and involved children in the future that they want for their town. Parish councils in Horsforth and Rawdon are engaging actively with residents and their views.

The feedback I am receiving is united. People complain that despite their work, the local authority’s five-year land supply supersedes everything they are doing. It has sent applications for thousands of new houses to the inspector for approval. If that plan did not have to be approved by the inspector, I wonder what the real figure would be. I suggest that it would probably be far more realistic.

The people I speak to are anxious about the green belt in our area. An urban constituency such as mine values its green belt, which helps us to identify our separate towns and villages. We are in danger of creating urban sprawl. We have heard from other hon. Members that developers are going to the inspector, and that is happening in my constituency. Developers have taken applications for some of our precious green areas to the inspector, and I hope that they will be turned down so that local people have time to determine where houses should be.

One parish councillor said to me that he is worried that nothing decided at parish level can change the decision made by those at unitary level, who themselves are hidebound by central Government housing targets. We need to address the problem urgently, because local people are rightly getting angry. Let us give local people the real power that we promised. Let us stop the developers thinking that they can do what they like, and let us seriously look at abolishing the inspectorate, so that we can even the playing field and tip planning towards having far more localism.”

Despite time constrictions Stuart Andrew managed to reinforce concerns voiced by WARD about green belt protection, five year land supply problems and the unrealistic housing targets in the Leeds LDF Core Strategy.  He finished by questioning the ‘token localism’ afforded by the Localism Act with a call to abolish the inspectorate, which is something that WARD has been recommending for some time.  After all, if an original planning application is refused,  the developer already has an unlimited ability to submit an infinite number of amended planning applications, so why is this autocratic body necessary?

It is very gratifying to see these two MPs giving their active support to the WARD organisation and for that WARD is very grateful.  Many many thanks Stuart, many many thanks Greg.