Grove Road planning decision could open 'minefield' in Wetherby

Wetherby Coun John Procter (Con) at the development plan panel meeting on housing allocations across the Leeds region.
Wetherby Coun John Procter (Con) at the development plan panel meeting on housing allocations across the Leeds region.

A public inquiry which has ruled to grant planning permission to a controversial development has left a vast number of green spaces in Wetherby and surrounding areas under threat, according to a Wetherby ward councillor.

Developers, Miller Homes, filed a planning appeal against Leeds City Council (LCC) after it failed to make a decision on their application to build 104 houses on Grove Road, Boston Spa.

More than two years since the inquiry started in May 2014, the Secretary of State has not only ruled to allow the appeal, but found LCC was failing to deliver its housing supply target by 2028.

Enforcing a 20 per cent increase on its annual housing supply, Wetherby councillor, John Procter (Con), has spoken about what this means for Boston Spa, Wetherby and Harewood.

He said: “It kept getting pushed aside so it’s been a real surprise that it’s come out like this, a bit of a blow from the blue as far as we’re concerned and the inspector’s findings are really concerning. Not only have they allowed this development, the inspector has said there needs to be a 20 per cent increase in the housing build out rate.”

The site of the Grove Road development is known as Protected Area of Search (PAS) site, which was the subject of a planning policy some 20 years ago.

Areas of green belt sites were turned into PAS sites and the policy stated they would remain green spaces but that housing applications there should still be considered.

LCC had used the policy to argue that Grove Road was not an allocated housing site and a decision on the application would be ‘premature’ as the authority had not yet produced a Site Allocation Plan (SAP) marking potential areas for new housing.

However the inspector’s report gave little weight to these, and for the same reason that a finalised document had yet not been produced, also gave little weight to waiting for a Boston Spa Neighbourhood plan.

From 2012-2028 LCC had also forecast to deliver 70,000 dwellings within its authority borders.

But the inspectors report found that the council had failed to deliver enough houses between 2012 and 2014, causing an undersupply backlog to the tune of 2,363 dwellings.

Pushed to meet the extra 20 per cent constraint on the council, Coun Procter said a number of PAS sites and green spaces will be subject to various planning applications.

With many PAS sites in the Wetherby, Harewood and Boston Spa, he said the decision could open a ‘minefield’.

He said: “This outcome is what we call pepperpotting and the villages can’t cope, Boston Spa can’t cope - the schools and doctors surgery are full, traffic is already busy at choking point and the same is true for other places.

“It has opened the floodgates for developers to bring forward developments in villages that we have been resisting for years.

LCC said it was also disappointed with the outcome.

Councillor Richard Lewis, executive member for regeneration, transport and planning said: “We share Coun Procter’s concern about the Grove Road decision and the Secretary of State’s decision for this development to be allowed, despite the fact that Leeds has an adopted Core Strategy in place and a Site Allocations Plan which is at an advanced stage.

"The delay in the receipt of the decision is also especially frustrating, given that the public inquiry formally closed in July 2014. We are currently considering the implications of the decision and next steps.

"In the meantime, we remain committed to delivering the priorities for regeneration and managed growth across Leeds as part of a planned approach and in consultation with local communities."