Campaign to Protect Rural England objects to Thorp Arch plans for 2,000 houses

Millennium Square and Leeds Civic Hall, Leeds City Centre.
Millennium Square and Leeds Civic Hall, Leeds City Centre.

The Campaign to Protect Rural England has strongly objected to plans to build up to 2,000 houses in Thorp Arch.

In the latest of a series of objections submitted against the proposal for the village’s trading estate, the Campaign (CPRE) argues the development would be a ‘motorway dormitory settlement’, poorly connected by public transport

It also states that, while the outline proposal, submitted by Rockspring Hanover Property Trust in July 2013, is a brownfield site, so preferable, it will be built too slowly and will not be sustainable.

Planner for CPRE West Yorkshire Andrew Wood said: “It is a tricky issue for CPRE because we are always trying to encourage the use of brownfield sites, and this is a very significant one that should have the effect of helping to protect greenfield sites in Leeds.

“On the other hand, with the application as it is, we don’t have confidence it is going to be sustainable or that the opportunity the brownfield site offers is going to be properly realised.”

Mr Wood also criticised Leeds City Council (LCC), saying its housing policies are not stringent or joined-up enough to facilitate sustainable building or protect greenfield sites at risk of development.

He said: “This application cannot be taken in isolation, it has to be part of a system for delivering housing in Leeds.

“We have a lot of sympathy with the argument that Thorp Arch would potentially alleviate development on some protected sites. That is all very well in theory but this is part of the problem.

“When you get other applications going through, the developer is saying that, though Thorp Arch will contribute to housing in Leeds over time, it won’t contribute fast enough, therefore you need to develop these other sites.

“A site where there is a large need for infrastructure is bound to take longer, but if you allow a sort of drip feed of developments on protected sites it reduces the focus on sites such as Thorp Arch.”

Responding to the criticism, LCC executive member for neighbourhoods, planning, and personnel Coun Peter Gruen (Lab) said: “Clearly with 2,000 houses you need infrastructure and facilities and we have worked alongside ward members and the applicants throughout the whole process.

“In terms of joined-up thinking we have talked to all parties and are getting the balance right, but in doing that there may be some parties who feel we didn’t pay enough attention to their bit.

“We are under enormous pressure to build houses and release land quickly. That doesn’t come from me it comes from central government.

“I accept that not all our proposals will be universally popular but we are trying to be transparent, fair, and to work in the best interests of the city, not just one particular neighbourhood.”

The trustees of Rockspring were approached for a comment but did not provide one.