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Anger over Hough Top council housing plans

By John Baron

Leeds City Council planners have been accused of ‘bulldozing’ through plans for 82 new local authority homes at a former school site at Hough Top – and ignoring concerns of Swinnow residents.

As reported by WLD yesterday, members of the south and west plans panel will meet at Leeds Civic Hall next Thursday (June 6) to discuss a development of new council housing at the former Hough Side High School site – after previously asking council designers to come back with revised plans following a number of concerns.

Councillors had previously provided feedback on the scheme back in March, and had told designers to make a number of changes to the proposal.

Changes now incorporated into revised plans include more windows to corner properties, an increase in windows to the flats, improvements to flank boundaries to houses, an increase in tree planting, removal of the path to the south-eastern public open space and improvements to hard surfacing treatment. 

But there has been no change to the western boundary treatment, other than the provision of ball strike netting, the proposed vehicular access points or cycle access – all of which were raised in March.

Council planning officers are recommending that councillors approve the scheme, subject to 34 planning conditions which include a landscaping scheme and details of maintenance, a highways condition survey and retention of driveways for parking.

An artist’s impression of the houses at Hough Top development has been criticised as being inaccurate.

But local resident Ian Feber, who will be speaking against the plans at Thursday’s meeting, said people weren’t against the principle of having council housing on site site but criticised what he claimed were misleading artist’s impressions and the decision to close the main Harley Drive entrance to the site.

He told: “The applicant continues to claim that they have ‘sought to engage positively and proactively with the local community, both during the life of the application and at pre-application stage.’ But that’s total rubbish. This has never been engagement – simply notification.

“As residents we have offered on several occasions to meet with the Council House Growth Team to discuss the situation. This has been rebuffed. No effort has been made to work with residents to revise the scheme to overcome our legitimate concerns.

“The three-storey flats are too big – and in the wrong place. The whole development is in red brick – yet the whole of Hough Top is local stone. And they are closing the original main entrance to the site on Harley Drive – which pushes all of the traffic onto Hough Top, a road that has significant well known problems they refuse to acknowledge. 

“If there is no evidence of any revisions to the proposed scheme which reflect feedback received from residents at any stage – just how meaningful was the ‘consultation process’? 

“The rights of existing residents have been ignored throughout and prejudiced by the process. Under planning law, residents should have a legitimate expectation that their concerns will be heard, listened to and fairly and properly reported to the Panel Members when the application is determined. Yet the report in the linked documents is riddled with errors and downplays the scale of over 100 objections from the public.”

Objectors to the scheme hired planning consultants The Leith Group to support their case.

In a letter to planners, Leith said residents, third parties and consultees have ‘simply not had sufficient time’ to review the revised submissions, especially given the scale of revised reports and plans, and time to consider their position and to draft representation. Among a number of concerns, it adds the council: “…failed to confirm that a policy compliant access from Harley Drive cannot be achieved, and cannot therefore robustly justify why this access option has not been explored further.”

Cllr Simon Seary

Residents’ concerns have been supported by Councillor Simon Seary (Cons, Pudsey), who said the administration should be ‘ashamed of the poorly designed’ application.

“We should expect the best plans to be submitted by the Council’s own department,” said Cllr Seary. “So that it can lead the way on new planning applications for homes and communities for the families of Leeds which it is supposed to represent.

“The former Hough Side High School will have entrances off Hough Top, with a primary school at one junction and a single file road at the other – not the best access for additional 82 homes. The site is not in keeping with the traditional stones houses along Hough Top or the wider area, keeping the whole site in a cheap red brick material.

“The proposed properties overlooking the sports fields will have a six-metre high ‘ball’ fence, which will make you feel you are in a prison yard and not in your own garden, who will pick up the costs for its repair as council tax payers. A simple design change to the layout would remove the need for this fencing.

“The parking issues along Hough Top created by our own council as it rents the sports fields to local football clubs hasn’t been addressed with this application and will just exacerbate these issues even further.

“We and many of the local neighbours are in full support of delivering a housing scheme on this site, but the standard the council is trying to deliver will create more harm than good and sets an extremely low bar for other developers to follow, but the council continues to bulldoze through with their plans without listening.”

A council planning officer’s report concluded that the principle of residential development is ‘considered to be acceptable’.

The report maintains the council’s position that consultation has been carried out and concludes that the application meets local and national planning guidelines.

It added: “The development is not considered to be harmful to the character and appearance of the area, nor would it have a harmful impact on highway safety. The development provides 100% affordable housing and this weighs heavily in the balance of considerations.”

The report said there was a growing demand for one, two and three bedroom properties in the Pudsey ward.

It said: “The housing demand data for this area is high. There is a shortage of affordable housing in the Pudsey ward, with an average of 358 bids for each home advertised in the local area.

“The proposed development would support the council’s priorities of providing quality, affordable housing where it is needed and will also bring a currently unused site back into use.”

The agenda and council documents for next Thursday’s Leeds Civic Hall meeting (1.30pm) can be read here.

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