Spofforth Hill plans given approval by planning chiefs

wet  Spofforth Hill 2004.   0809044a.
wet Spofforth Hill 2004. 0809044a.

Plans for up to 325 houses at Spofforth Hill have been approved by planning chiefs despite widespread opposition.

Environmental campaigners, local residents, ward members, and even Elmet and Rothwell MP Alec Shelbrooke opposed the plans for the farmland at Spofforth Hill.

NAWN 1309165AM1 Spofforth Hill public meeting. (1309165AM1)

NAWN 1309165AM1 Spofforth Hill public meeting. (1309165AM1)

However, at a heated city plans panel meeting, Leeds City Council (LCC) approved the application from developer Bellway Homes, pending certain considerations.

Cross Gates and Whinmoor Coun Peter Gruen (Lab), who is also the executive member for neighbourhoods, planning, and personnel, put forward the vote to approve the plans but said he had to be satisfied as to certain points.

He said affordable housing needs to be evenly distributed across the site and that the access might be changed, satisfying ward members and residents.

“The one that concerns me the most is around section 106,” he said.

“I think the panel should reserve the right to look at this when it comes back to us, and it is up to Bellway Homes and the chief planning officer to bring it back to us.

“Give us absolute clarity on that. I will not agree to this unless there is absolute clarity that the off site contribution is going to happen - that is the reason we are releasing the PAS site.

“Other than that I think this scheme deserves our support and should be gifted a second time round.

“We are a very long way in the right direction but there are some points we can’t sign off today.”

The section 106 agreement is a set of conditions to be met before planning permission is signed off by the planning officer and is subject to agreement between LCC and the applicants Bellway Homes.

According to a report by the council’s chief planning officer, affordable housing on the proposed site is set at 15 per cent (49 dwellings).

Instead of another 20 per cent affordable housing to make up the normal requirement, Bellway must give £8.5million to LCC.

The outline proposal was brought forward for discussion by LCC, despite arguments that there is still a great deal of work to be done before any decision can be reached.

Before putting forward a vote to defer the application at the meeting on September 18, Wetherby Coun John Procter (Con) questioned officers extensively about the handling of the application and the need for housing in Wetherby.

He said: “Contrary to what is said here and what we are constantly being told, we don’t need this site, we don’t need any other PAS site. That is what was said at Boston Spa, that is what we agreed at executive board only yesterday. Officers can’t have it both ways.

“For all of those reasons I don’t believe for one minute that members have the information before them today to grant approval for this site and I would formally propose that this matter be deferred.”

After the vote for approval he told the Wetherby News: “There are still big questions to be answered about how the whole application has been handled and I have approached the chief executive and others fort hose answers.

“There are some people in Wetherby who will be pleased that we are going to look at some of the matters again, but within that the release of what is a greenfield site that is not allocated for housing - that I do not support.”

Spokesman for Bellway Homes and the landowners Rob Smith said: “Spofforth Hill is proposed as the first PAS site set for release. In practice this means that this application will facilitate delivery of housing.

“A grant of planning permission will not only provide demonstrable housing benefits in Wetherby as well as providing a double benefit of providing housing in the city.

“This application promotes development that is sustainable. To approve it would be good, pragmatic, and joined up planning that is in the public interest.”

READ THE FULL REPORT IN THE WETHERBY NEWS THIS WEEK (THURSDAY, SEPTEMBER 25).