Potential Green Field ‘Land’ Grab By Developers In Leeds

Local councillors in Leeds, especially in the area to the north, are very concerned that they are about to be swamped with planning applications for green field sites. The danger comes from developers and landowners trying to take advantage of a window of opportunity before Leeds’ local development framework (LDF) is completed in 2013.  The concern has been raised by the latest threat to Kirklees Knoll in Farsley.

The new LDF (core strategy and site allocations) for Leeds is wending its way through the 2012 consultations, NPPF alignment, and neighbourhood plan co-ordination on site allocations.  It has thus not been officially approved, and so cannot be used to guide planning applications.  Until the LDF is adopted the old Unitary Development Plan (UDP) still carries weight.

The UDP lists a number of sites with PAS status (protected areas of search) – which means they may be suitable for development.   It is the green fields with PAS status, where landowners are interested in selling for development, that are potential rich targets for developers.

Developers are extremely confident, (and they spend a lot of money on legal issues such as this)  that under the new national planning policy framework (NPPF),  if their applications for planning permission on PAS land are refused by Leeds, then, without an adopted LDF,  an appeal by them to a planning inspector would find in their favour.   This literally holds Leeds to ransom -‘approve our green field applications, or otherwise it will cost your rate payers  a great deal of money in lost appeals’.

It is still the case that developers have a right to appeal numerous times on a planning permission, whereas the local community have no right of appeal whatsoever.  There was a clause in the draft Localism Bill that gave third party right to appeal to local communities, but this was removed by the Government before the final bill received Royal Assent at the end of 2011.    It remains a huge cause of unfairness in planning law, and something that communities should be continuously lobbying their MP’s about.

One such area of PAS land under threat is Kirklees Knoll,  between Rodley and Farsley, in the wedge between the Ring Road, Calverley Lane and Bagley Lane, where there are proposals for 468 houses: 400 of them planned by the Thornhill Estates.    This is not far from the Clarient Works site where an appeal against 550 homes, causing even more ring road congestions and over crowded schools, was lost in March this year.  Kirklees Knoll was declassified as greenbelt over 20 years ago, well before it was even considered that Clarient might close – but this is the issue in north Leeds were PAS sites still stand, even though developers have been building large housing estates on former industrial sites.  Local communities are now getting the worst of all worlds, as was the case with Moons Field in Guiseley.

Cllr Andrew Carter,  the local councillor for Calverley and Conservative group leader on Leeds City Council,  told the full council last weekPAS land should not be brought forward without an agreed Core Strategy, which provides the council and communities the chance to have their say over where development should take place. If the house builders get away with this they will have made a mockery of a plan-led system, of localism, of community engagement and of elected councillors having an input.”

The council accepts that more houses have to be built, even though current population figures are dubiously based on the adjusted 2001 census, rather than the 2011 census.   (Initial 2011 population figures were late and only released in mid July 2012; the detail and forecasts are delayed, for ‘unclear reasons’.)  However, the NPPF is clear that brown field sites, of which Leeds has many, should come before green field.  There is also the case that Leeds has 14,000 empty properties, an issue rasied by Stuart Andrew  Pudsey’s MP in parliament only recently.

To counter the attack on PAS land, Leeds City Council have agreed to lobby Communities Secretary, and driver of localism, Eric Pickles.  In addition,  at a  public meeting in Pudsey Civic Hall on 20th July to galvanise local support for Kirklees Knoll, Andrew Carter asked for volunteers to work on a strategy to protect the land.  Local MP Stuart Andrew added that when plans for the Knoll were published,  individual letter/email of protest would have more weight than a petition and encouraged people to take the time to do that. (WARD will be publishing a suggested format for this in the next week.)   The other, longer term counter, is for local areas to get on as soon as possible with their neighbourhood plans.

There is a facebook page to follow progress and show support for Kirklees Knoll and a petition to sign specifically aimed at saving the Knoll here.