Government will not intervene in Wetherby planning decision

wet  Pictured at Spofforth Hill are protesters Simon Parrish, Beverley Parrish, Alex Parrish, Peter Tweddle, Freda Barker, Jim Walton, David Walton, and Tony Evans.  (130906M2)
wet Pictured at Spofforth Hill are protesters Simon Parrish, Beverley Parrish, Alex Parrish, Peter Tweddle, Freda Barker, Jim Walton, David Walton, and Tony Evans. (130906M2)

Appeals to the government to intervene in plans to build houses at Spofforth Hill have gone unheard.

The Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government Eric Pickles MP has decided not to get involved in the dispute between Leeds City Council (LCC) and objectors after he was approached by Elmet and Rothwell MP and others urging him to address issues with the application.

Submitted by Bellway Homes in July 2013, the decision was taken last month to delegate approval of the 325-home scheme to the planning officer, despite vocal and prolonged opposition.

Protesters, including Wetherby Coun John Procter (Con), questioned the decision-making process involved in this case and called on Mr Pickles to take a look - something that, this week, he decided not to do, leaving the final decision on the plans to LCC.

Mr Shelbrooke said: “I am very disappointed. I don’t think the issues relayed were addressed in the letter that was sent back and I will be asking why that is the case.”

Objector Jim Walton added: “The whole point of writing to him was to address the fact that we felt we were being disenfranchised. There is no avenue our concerns.

“The letter back makes no statement whatsoever about our rights. In that sense it is a huge disappointment. They are saying that LCC, and anyone else, can carry out these processes without anyone to answer to. They are totally unaccountable.

“The voting was a majority administration decision, and in effect national planning policy isn’t worth the paper it is written on because councillors can ignore it.”

According to Mr Walton, the next step is to consult a law firm and seek a judicial review - something he acknowledges is a difficult matter that will take some time.

Mr Pickles’ decision not to intervene, despite claims that not all relevant information was made public, has been welcomed by LCC executive member for neighbourhoods, planning, and personnel Coun Peter Gruen (Lab).

He said: “I believe, under the auspices of localism, these are the kind of decisions we should take at a city level. I am pleased he has confirmed that is the case and he won’t be interfering in the process.

“I think we took a perfectly proper decision, taking all the different factors into account and I recognised that is not universally popular but I am sure it was in the interests of the city.

“I am also pleased we are going to get a quality development that will underpin our five year housing supply and I hope we can sort that out as soon as possible.”

A Bellway Homes spokesman said: “We support the decision. Our plans will help support development of much needed housing in Wetherby.”