Controversial plans for the redevelopment of the former Kirkstall District Centre site are recommended to be approved in principle by councillors next week, writes Keely Bannister.
Councillors sitting on the City Plans Panel will meet on Thursday 12th March and decide whether to agree with council planning officers who have produced a report recommending that they say yes to the plans for the Kirkstall Place development.
If councillors do approve the recommendations in the report, the application will then be deferred and delegated to the Chief Planning Officer for a final decision.
This includes negotiating a s106 agreement between the council and developer which would include:
- Provision for 13.6% affordable housing
- Travel Plan Fund of £131,632 + Travel Plan Monitoring Fee £3978
- Car Club Space £7,000
- Off-site Greenspace enhancement of £10,000
- Local employment and skills initiative
- Parking Control Zone
In the event the S106 agreement has not been completed within three months of the panel resolution the final determination of the application shall be delegated to the Chief Planning Officer.
Developers Artisan want to redevelop the mostly derelict Kirkstall Hill site with up to 263 dwellings and flexible commercial floorspace which could be used as shops or offices.
However, the proposals have seen residents and ward members expressing concerns over highways and design issues.
Kirkstall road congestion
Considering the already congested road network around the development location, such as the A65/Kirkstall Lane and Savins Mill Way junctions, concerns have been raised about the added impact an additional 263 dwellings will have.
The report states that the increased housing provision will actually create a less intensive highways and transportation impact compared to that of a large retail or office-led development, which is what the site was originally earmarked for in the Site Allocation Plan (SAP).
The report goes on to add:
“A sum of £77,905 for improvement works to provide wider footpaths to the site perimeter to Kirkstall Hill and Beecroft Street with an area of land gifted by the applicant at the junction of Kirkstall Hill and Kirkstall Lane, to be made available for potential junction improvement works by the Council in the future and which will become adopted highway.
“Various options were explored including providing an off-site sum towards highway safety works within the Kirkstall Ward however the applicant elected to provide an increased level of affordable housing, above that suggested within the initial viability assessment.
“In addition concerns were initially raised in relation to overspill parking by highways officers in their consultation responses and Ward Members. The scheme now creates a controlled parking zone covering an 800m wide area surrounding the site which will be funded by obligations through a legal agreement, considered to mitigate highway safety concerns.”
Affordable housing issues
Artisan further sparked consternation when they claimed that they couldn’t meet targets for affordable home or on-site greenspace provision.
A district valuer supported the developers’ claims stating that they couldn’t provide these amenities and generate a 19.59% profit margin.
Proposals put to the panel in November 2019 after the district valuer had conducted their analysis, suggested that Artisan should provide 22 (8.36%) of the development as affordable – down from the required 40 (15%) – and not have to make a payment in lieu of the missing 5,438 sqm of on-site green space which they weren’t providing.
Cllr John Illingworth spoke against this – on behalf of himself and fellow Kirsktall councillors Venner and Bithell – stating that the changes made the scheme “fall short of expectations”.
Since then, negotiations between the council and developer have secured an increased number of affordable units, which stands at 36 (13.6%), and the agreement from Artisan that a contribution of £10,000 will be paid towards the improvement/maintenance of an off-site greenspace area directly related to the site.
Conclusion: ‘a significant regeneration opportunity’
In conclusion, the report states that the development should be considered a significant regeneration opportunity that would contribute positively to the regeneration of a vacant brownfield site. It adds:
“The development provides an acceptable layout given the steep and challenging topography of the site with a positive design and internal landscaping arrangement, allowing public access throughout which is considered to deliver an acceptable standard of residential amenity, including adequate internal space, for future occupants.
“In this instance, conflicts have been identified with policies relating to the provision of on-site greenspace and affordable housing which do carry weight.
“However, the benefits of ensuring redevelopment of a largely derelict, vacant brownfield site and providing housing to contribute to the Council’s ongoing housing supply also attract weight.
“Given the identified viability issues and specific site constraints it is considered, on balance, the benefits of the proposal weigh against identified conflicts and as such the application is recommended for approval.”