By John Baron. Additional Reporting: David Spereall, local democracy reporting service
Early plans for 130 affordable houses and apartments at a former industrial site on Kirkstall Road have been largely welcomed by councillors – despite parts of it being likened to a ‘no-frills range at the supermarket’.
Applicant Your Housing Group (YHG) is one of the largest providers of affordable housing in the UK, managing over 27,000 homes across the North-West, Yorkshire and the Midlands.
YHG is hoping to build 43 houses and 87 apartments with associated public greenspace, car parking and landscaping on the former Thyssen Krupp site.
Councillors on the city plans panel today met to comment and shape the initial proposals ahead of a formal planning application being submitted to the council.
Architect Daniel Sutton spoke about an ‘innovative approach’ to tackle issues with flooding from the River Aire, with some properties raised by one metre to avoid flooding on the site, which was badly affected during the Boxing Day 2015 floods.
The proposed housing includes 24 three-bedroom townhouses, 6 three-bedroom mews houses and 13 three-bedroom terraced townhouses.
Proposed apartments will include 35 one-bedroom apartments, 47 two-bedroom apartments; and 5 three-bedroom apartments. They would sit across two separate blocks, both of which front Kirkstall Road.
Councillors debated flood risk, housing mix, the proposed scale and form of development, car parking and landscaping while the proposals are at pre-application stage.
Councillor Al Garthwaite (Lab, Headingley) welcomed the development but expressed concerns over the ‘blocky’ designs of some of the houses. Calling for more greenery on the site, she also said: “Just because it’s affordable, it doesn’t have to look quite as plain. It’s a bit reminiscent of the ‘no frills’ range at a supermarket. I appreciate we are only at an early stage with these proposals, but are [the developers] open to varying the design?”
Cllr Colin Campbell (Lib Dem, Otley & Yeadon) supported the principle of the ‘promising’ development which offered 100% affordable housing but was critical of some of the early designs. He said: “There’s a lot of sameness and not a lot of interest. There’s a blankness of the facades onto the access road off Kirkstall Road.”
But Councillor Kayleigh Brooks (Lab, Little London & Woodhouse) appreciated the design. She said: “I am largely supportive of the design and the echoes of the industrial past. It feels in keeping with the area.” Cllr Brooks called for the installation of outdoor gym equipment for people of all ages to use.
Cllr Peter Carlill (Lab, Calverley & Farsley) liked elements of the scheme but said some of the proposed walled flood defences around some properties ‘looked more like military defences’ due to the height of the walls. Cllr Ann Forsaith (Green, Farnley & Wortley) said the designs fit in with the heritage and character of the area and described it as ‘interesting’.
Council planning officer Stephen Varley defended the plans, saying it reflected the heritage of the area. He added: “I might get sacked for this, but I do not agree with councillors who say it is boring.”
Planning consultant John Brooks, director of WSP Planning Consultants, said he was happy to look at some of the designs and said he would take on feedback from councillors. He added: “This is all part of the evolution of the proposals.”
Cllr Caroline Gruen (Lab, Bramley & Stanningley) said the development has lots of potential and is ‘in the right place at the right time’ and welcomed the affordable housing element.
Cllr Asghar Khan (Lab, Burmantofts) said the development was ‘remarkable’ and welcomed the affordable housing element, but said he would like to see more connectivity with surrounding areas.
Work on the scheme could begin as early as next March, if it’s approved later this year as developers hope. A planning application is expected to be submitted in the coming weeks.
A council planning officer’s report considered by councillors concluded: “The emerging proposals offer a significant potential to regenerate a prominently located brownfield site which has been vacant and underutilised for a number of years.
“Subject to passing a flood risk sequential test and exception test the development would deliver a significant number of affordable new homes in a high quality, well designed and mid-density development. The development also offers the opportunity to provide new public realm and greenspace and facilitates pedestrian routes and future access through the site.”
Planning permission was previously agreed for a separate scheme on the site in 2019, which would have seen more than 270 flats built. That was abandoned last year however, after developers failed to agree a Section 106 deal, which dictates funding for community infrastructure near to proposed scheme.
Councillors briefly considered postponing the meeting as news broke of the Queen’s ailing health on Thursday’s lunchtime. However, they decided to carry on as planned, though several publicly offered up their thoughts and prayers for the Royal Family.
The council documents can be read in full here.