Words: Richard Beecham, local democracy reporter
Councillors have criticised early plans for a housing development on a former industrial site on the outskirts of Leeds, claiming there are not enough larger family homes planned for the area.
Developer Glenbrook Properties wants permission to demolish the former headquarters of Arla Foods on Kirkstall Road and replace it with built-to-rent properties.
According to a report which went before the council’s City Plans Panel yesterday, plans for the site involve building five blocks of between seven and 13 storeys, containing around 618 flats, around half of which would be one-bedroom units.
The site would also contain 230 “surface level car parking spaces”, all of which would have electric vehicle charging points.
A “mixed use” space would also be provided, expected to be a café and crèche.
The plans are made up of 308 one-bedroom, 248 two-bedroom and 62 three bedroom units. This is despite the council’s housing mix policy which dictates 50 per cent of new homes built should include two bedrooms and 30 per cent should contain three.
Councillors argued that, while these rules were often relaxed for city centre locations where families were less likely to live, the Arla Foods site was nowhere near the city centre, and that the rules should be stuck to.
Coun Peter Carlill (Lab, Calverley & Farsley) said:
“I see this as a residential area, and many of the people who live there are living in Kirkstall or Burley, and not the city centre.
“I would accept 10 per cent (three bedrooms) in flats near the train station in town, because that is where you are going to have single people living.
“This is a very different location. It is a family area. If we think about city centre living, that happens in the city centre.”
Coun David Blackburn (Green, Farnley & Wortley)) added:
“Clearly this site is more family-friendly than a site nearer to the city centre. We need a better housing mix there. We are trying to bring back family housing in that area.”
A Leeds City Council report into the plans stated that the site was “only just over 300 metres from the city centre boundary”, and that it could be classed as an “edge of centre” site.
But councillors were not convinced.
Coun Kayleigh Brooks (Lab, Little London & Woodhouse) said:
“In terms of the location there is a brilliant primary school not a 10 minute walk away.
“I don’t understand why we have this confusion over whether it is a city centre location. It’s silly. You look at the location and it is quite clearly not a city centre location.
“If the developer is saying ‘family friendly development’, that does not say ‘one-bed’ to me.”
Coun Dan Cohen (Con, Alwoodley) said: “Council policies do not come from nowhere. They evolve, are debated and adopted. We might not all agree with them, but it’s hugely frustrating when we have them and choose to ignore them.
“I understand the logic of being flexible with some city centre locations, but I will not support applications where the housing mix is simply too far away from policy compliance.”
Earlier in the meeting, a representative from the developers said: “The unit mix we have proposed is based on our understanding of demand and need in the area.
“We have taken on board the feedback from previous panels. We have reduced the overall unit numbers which has increased the proportion of one beds.
“We feel that for the viability and deliverability of the scheme is the right balance.”
The proposal includes the demolition of the existing former Arla depot building which fronts the site.
A centrally positioned new east/west spine road would run through the site, which would include public open spaces.
As the plan is at the early pre-application stage, no decision was made on whether to allow the development, with more detailed plans expected to be submitted in the coming months.
Outline plans for more than 630 flats on the site from a different developer were originally approved in principle by councillors in January 2021, despite concerns on the impact of extra traffic on the already busy A65.