Wild West: Leeds planning consultation farce


Some of you may be aware that Leeds has been consulting on a planning blueprint for the city over the past couple of months.

The Leeds-wide Site Allocations Plan has been in process for several years, and will – once completed – form a proposed framework for all development (housing, retail, industrial, greenspace, and more) across the city. Although each development will still need to go through the regular planning processes, the plan will form a crucial fundamental baseline for the city and its communities.

And today’s the last day of the consultation.

The council said it was ‘eager’ to include views from residents across the city. People were able to provide their comments online, through drop-in sessions (there was one held in the West Leeds area – at Pudsey Civic Hall in September) or via a paper feedback form.

It’s certainly caused a lot of debate. Residents in Pudsey and Farnley & Wortley have been urged to object to proposals by their local politicians amid concerns about the threat to green belt land.

And in the south of the city, some residents have already described the consultation as ‘botched’.

I gave the consultation a go yesterday. I have a personal interest in the loss of green belt near my home in Farnley and wanted to have my say.

I don’t know how many of you have given the consultation a go, but I hope you fared better than I did at answering the questions.

After filling in my personal details (I didn’t do all of them – my occupation and phone number are none of your business, LCC, and irrelevant to this consultation), I soon came to the main question:

Which test of soundness are your comments about?

Eh? What? I don’t understand? What does ‘test of soundness’ mean? Soundness and test of what? Perhaps, I thought, the multiple choice answers will shed some answers. The options were:

  • Positively Prepared
  • Effective
  • Justified
  • Consistency with National Policy

What do ANY of those actually mean? Seriously?  Are you expecting me – an ordinary Joe Bloggs from Farnley – to be up to date with national planning policy?  What do you mean by ‘positively prepared’? Does that mean you put together the plan with a smile on your face while singing ‘kum ba ya my Lord’ while holding hands around a campfire?

My point is this – it means ABSOLUTELY NOTHING to the average person. I suspect, like me, most people guessed what they should tick. That’s right, a major consultation over the future of housing in Leeds hangs around people guessing what an Earth it’s about.

I’m kicking myself that I didn’t go through the consultation earlier so I could have raised these issues a couple of months ago.

I’m not sure what the findings of the consultation will be like, although I’m sure the council will get what they want from it. But either way, in future the council MUST learn the lesson over this botched consultation. Plain English, please, otherwise you run the risk of people thinking you’ve made it inaccessible on purpose ….

Residents have until 5pm today to have their say. Good luck …

The Wild West is a regular opinion and comment column. Views expressed here are those of the author and not necessarily those of West Leeds Dispatch.


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