As we reported in detail last week, Leeds Labour Council has refused planning permission to two green field sites in Adel.
Adel church
The decision was very welcome to local residents, who have campaigned hard to protect them. But it had much wider significance. It was an important indication of Leeds Labour Council’s position on planning – and especially its determination to prioritise brownfield development and to ensure that development occurs where it is most needed – and not where developers most want to put it.

The Adel sites lay in greenfields between historic Adel Church and the A660, Otley Road. They were what is known as Protected Areas of Search. These areas are designed to protect the Green Belt.
Leeds Labour Council has put in place stringent safeguards for such sites – safeguards especially designed to resist pressure from developers, who much prefer them to brownfield.

These interim protections have not been popular with developers. They have been challenged in the High Court by Miller Homes – but have been shown to be legal. Unfortunately Miller Homes have taken the case to the Court of Appeal – forcing Leeds Council to waste public money on legal defence.

The LibDem/Tory Coalition’s National Planning Framework stacks the cards in favour of developers. The legal case shows how careful the Council is forced to be – the possibility of costly legal challenge in these cash-strapped times cannot be taken lightly. At the same time, the readiness to pursue this case demonstrates just how seriously Leeds Labour Council takes the protection of not just Green Belt, but also Green Field land.

The Council is strongly in favour of brownfield development. Indeed Peter Gruen, Executive Member for Neighbourhoods, Planning and Personnel, is already on record challenging the government to return to this policy. Just as he’s on record asking for a level playing field for residents – something the LibDem/Tory Coalition’s NPPF does not provide.

Speaking in the Plans Panel which rejected these Adel proposals last Thursday, Liz Nash, Labour Councillor for City and Hunslet accused developers of fighting shy of brownfield sites – even though these are crucial to the city’s needs and its regeneration
‘Developers want to cherry pick green field sites yet turn down brownfield inner city sites where we desperately need the housing’. Cllr Nash was applauded by local residents for her passionate speech in defence of local communities and their democratically elected representatives making decisions – and not developers.

Peter Gruen summed up Leeds Labour’s position on Thursday – on these sites, but also in general.
“We’ve been listening to the local community and looking at the objections from a wide range of experts to these development proposals. We have a clear council belief that the city needs to have new homes over coming years, but we are equally clear that we want to make sure housing is provided in the right places at the right times.
Our priorities include
– planning for the provision of homes and jobs in sustainable locations,
– respecting local character and distinctiveness
– and maximising opportunities to recycle previously developed land, whilst minimising greenfield and green belt use.”

As we said before, the Council’s housing and land allocations plans – carefully judged to satisfy the NPPF’s external inspector – have enabled it to reject proposals like this. Without those plans, the danger would be of a developers’ free-for-all. Our MP, Greg Mulholland, would be wise to consider that when he takes his next party political swipe at Leeds Labour.

The last word should go to Neil Walshaw – who is Labour Councillor for Headingley. He’s Chair of the Development Plan Panel and also a member of the City Plans Panel. He moved one of the recommendations to refuse permission, and seconded the other
‘I am pleased to support the recommendations to refuse both these applications…..it demonstrates that now the Council is in a much stronger position to protect communities and it is the Council that decides where, when and how housing development occurs and not developers’.

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