Land off Racecourse Approach, Wetherby
The outline application for development of 800 new houses on this site (17/02594/OT) went to the City Plans Panel of Leeds City Council for approval on the 28th March 2019.
Although the site is currently designated as Rural Land, it is a proposal site for residential and educational uses in the Site Allocations Plan for Leeds City Council. Reports from the City Plan Meeting suggest that Councillors were not minded to approve this development. Leeds Live quotes the Wetherby Councillor Alan Lamb (Con) as saying ‘I am staggered, genuinely, that officers have brought this forward for approval.’ In summary, the members agreed that they were ‘not quite ready to support this and [that] there are issues that need to be addressed’, deferring a decision to a later meeting.
CPRE West Yorkshire submitted a planning objection to this development back in August 2018 because there were unresolved objections to the site’s proposed allocation in the SAP, it was inappropriate development of Rural Land and it was an unsustainable location for development. We are pleased to see members of the City Plan Meeting challenging the recommendation for approval without resolutions to their concerns.
Residents of Wetherby have been dismayed about the expectation on the town to accommodate the burden of required housing allocation for the area. This, despite not having a train station making it unsuitable for major further growth. The development would place further burdens on the town, but due to the unsustainable location of the site in relation to Wetherby itself (the other side of a motorway), it is likely to function as a dormitory extension to service towns across the Local Authority boundary.
The City Plans Panel report suggested that the ‘need for additional housing’ was enough to justify the proposals as a ‘sustainable form of development’. At present, Leeds City Council cannot identify a five year supply of deliverable housing sites. This puts pressure on the council explaining why this application has now been brought forward for approval despite not meeting accessibility standards for Local Services, Employment, Health Centres or Town/City Centres.
The application has been brought before committee under the premise that matters relating to the Site Allocation Plan (SAP) had ‘significantly advanced’. The report states that the Local Plan Inspector has now reviewed the draft plan for soundness, and that Major Modifications (MM) relating to the site concern detailed technical site requirements and not the principle of housing development. Because of this, the allocation of housing on the site has been afforded ‘significant weight’ in the report.
The report suggests; ‘it is worth noting that in considering the Tingley PAS site appeal, the Inspector gave the loss of agricultural land little weight in the overall balance of considerations. In conclusion, the loss of agricultural land is not considered to be significant and to an extent which lends support for withholding planning permission.’ This gives little hope to those of us who care about the protection and enhancement of the West Yorkshire Countryside.
We will need to wait a little longer to find out the outcome of this development proposal and to determine the long-term impact on Wetherby.