Homes plans deferred

Decision makers at Leeds City Council have agreed to put a decision on plans for more than 800 houses in Wetherby on hold.

Outline blueprints for the homes, along with a new school, supermarket and park near Racecourse Approach went before Leeds City Council’s influential city plans panel for a decision next week.

But not everyone is happy with the proposals, as more than 100 letters objecting to the plans were sent to the authority from disgruntled locals, warning of the effects such a large-scale development would have on nearby schools, roads and amenities.

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The meeting of Leeds City Council’s City Plans Panel in Civic Hall was also packed with around 40 spectators who had come to observe the item.

Speaking against the application, Wetherby councillor Alan Lamb (Con) told the meeting: “If I had 44 minutes I wouldn’t be able to describe all the things that were wrong with this development.

“This site is not sustainable. It doesn’t meet any tests of sustainability. The effect would be severe and creates a new settlement next to an existing settlement.

“I am staggered, genuinely, that officers have brought this forward for approval.

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“This would be a development entirely dependent on the private motorcar.

“There are no employment allocations for Wetherby, so it follows that anyone who lives here and is of employment age will have to travel to Leeds, Harrogate and York, and they will have to do it in cars.

“This is against our policies and we should not bring it forward.”

Local activist Eric Cowen told the Leeds planning meeting: “The issue of putting 1,100 houses on the other side of the motorway when there is another, more appropriate site, that hasn’t even been considered.

“It is totally alien to the way Wetherby has developed.

“We are a broad based successful community.

“This is not a scheme that can be put into that structure.”

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The site, on the eastern edge of the town, is currently used as farm land.

But the site is allocated for residential and education use in the council’s Site Allocations Plan (SAP), expected to be adopted this summer.

Applicants speaking to the meeting stressed that the site is included in the site allocations plan, and has been earmarked for development.

They added there were also other public benefits of around £40m, including provision for affordable housing and a £2.7m payment for the school.

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Coun Paul Wadsworth (Con) said: “We are premature because the SAP is not in, and the access to this site is terrible across a six lane motorway.

“You would have to use a car to take a four-year-old to school, you wouldn’t walk it.

“It’s just not the right place to put houses.”

Coun Neil Walshaw (Lab) said: “If there was a problem with this site, it would have been raised, so I’m not sure that the argument of prematurity holds.

“This application, while there are issues, the fact it is in the situation it is leads me to think we should move in favour of this. But I admit there are significant issues with the site and how it would pan out.”

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Coun Barry Anderson (Con) said: “It will make money for Leeds City Council, but it will cost money for Wetherby. Local people will pick up the tab for the infrastructural deficit.

“People who live outside of there will find it more difficult to integrate into Wetherby.

“We are going to have to take a tougher stance on developers who are adding to the climate emergency.”

Coun Dan Cohen (Con) added: “This is the planning process for that development. For me the question is whether the development is suitable for that parcel of land.

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“What is before us now is not. I am very concerned at school provision, about getting primary and secondary school children into a nearby local school.

“I cannot see how we can possibly support a development today that allows more cars to go on our road.

“This is effectively cut off by that six lane motorway from Wetherby Town Centre.

“If you cannot meet basic accessibility standards, don’t bother bringing them here. If officers are not going to keep to our own standards, there is no point in having them.”

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Coun David Blackburn (Green) said: “I can’t support this in the form it’s in now. It doesn’t meet accessibility standards.

“It might be in the SAP, but just because it is in there it doesn’t mean you have to accept everything that comes forward. This does not deal with the problem.

“Last night we were in full council discussing climate crisis, and this will make it worse.”

Chairing the meeting, Coun Jim McKenna (Lab) summed up: “We are not quite ready to support this and there are issues that need to be addressed.”

Members then voted to defer the item until a later meeting.