Plans to build 152 houses on Leeds City College’s former Horsforth campus in Calverley Lane have been approved in principle by Leeds planning chiefs, writes Richard Beecham.
Due to a high court decision earlier this year, the site was returned into the greenbelt, which cast doubt on whether it should be built on.
Local councillors opposing the plan said the extra houses would put undue strain on school places in the area.
But members of Leeds City Council’s City Plans Panel agreed that, as the site was previously developed and is currently unused, the development should go ahead.
The site currently houses two-storey college buildings previously used for teaching and greenhouses, as well as car parks and grassed areas with trees.
In a rare move for developers, the plans, brought forward by the college along with Galliford Try Partners and Stonewater, are set to comprise of 100 per cent affordable housing provision.
During the meeting, Horsforth councillor Dawn Collins (Con) said:
“The site is shown in our core strategy as part of the Leeds green infrastructure network. We need to protect and enhance green infrastructure.
“This development does not do this – it proposes to build on two thirds of the site, only leaving one third of the site for wildlife.”
She added that a proposed £200,000 towards highways improvements from developers would not do enough to mitigate road congestion.
Coun Collins’ ward colleague, Coun Jonathan Taylor (Con), added:
“If the development was approved, the catchment area (of nearby schools) would likely have to shrink even further to accommodate children from this development, unfairly excluding existing Horsforth residents.
“I feel the council is sleepwalking into a school places crisis in Horsforth if this is not resolved.”
Following a judicial review in the High Court, it was ruled that 37 former green belt sites in Leeds City Council’s site allocations plan (a document which outlines sites suitable for housebuilding) should be re-examined by the government. It is as yet unclear on when a final decision is going to be made on the sites by the Government on whether these should be included in the site allocations plan.
Speaking on behalf of the developer, Phil Brock told the meeting:
“We appreciate this may appear as a very new and emotive proposal, given the site’s reversion to green belt.
“An SAP allocation is not essential. In this case, the complete redevelopment of previously developed land would not cause substantial harm to openness of green belt and would meet housing needs.
“The need for affordable housing is particularly acute in Horsforth.”
He added the scheme would deliver significant benefits, and continue to contribute to education in Leeds.
During a discussion on the plans, Coun Peter Gruen (Lab) said:
“It is my considered view that in principle this site is developable and it qualifies for development. What detracts from development is the standard and quality and the layout.
“This is a long way away from where I would like it to be.”
He proposed approving the development in principle but instructing council officers to work with developers to improve the designs.
Coun Dan Cohen (Con) said: “I find lots of what Coun Gruen said attractive, but I think it’s taking an easy way out.
“The school places that have been raised are a major issue. I share the view in terms of the design as being utterly atrocious.
“Why are we having this conversation? Is this land not green belt?
“This land has been taken out of the SAP by a high court judge, and has been put back into green belt. It is not an allocated site, and it has been made very clear to us that it is not to be treated as such.
“It is green belt land to be afforded the protection of green belt land. This is the countryside.”
Following a three-hour debate on the subject, councillors on the panel voted to approve the plans in principle, but asked parts of the development to be significantly improved before giving full permission to the site.