Secretary of state asked to help with Spofforth Hill planning

Bird's eye view of Spofforth Hill.
Bird's eye view of Spofforth Hill.

The Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government has become involved in a planning row between Wetherby residents and Leeds City Council (LCC).

The decision was made last week to delegate the final say on the Spofforth Hill plans for 325 houses to Leeds’ chief planning officer.

Despite fierce local opposition, the proposal, submitted by Bellway Homes in July 2013, is now expected to be approved and protestors, who sent more than 300 letters of objection to LCC, have appealed to Communities Secretary Eric Pickles.

A spokesman for the campaign against the Spofforth Hill development said: ”Our democratic rights as rate-payers have been abused. The council has a responsibility to listen to all applications and we don’t think we have been fairly listened to.

“We believe we have a case for a judicial review. It is a political type of decision the way this has been done and we feel fairly certain that is not the way it is supposed to work.”

As the campaigners wait for a response from Mr Pickles they are meeting with ward members for guidance.

Wetherby Coun John Procter (Con), who voted against the decision, said: “I completely understand the people who are objecting to the proposals and, as I said at the plans panel, it is simply unacceptable for more than 1,000 pages of information not to be on the planning file.

“Unless the process is open and transparent and we can all see it, how is it right and how do we know what is going on?

“That clearly is not appropriate and it is not right, so on that point I fully support the action the objectors have taken in raising this matter with the secretary of state.”

According to Mr Procter, Bellway Homes were told not to bring the case forward ahead of the site allocations process, which allows the council to pick the sites best equipped for development.

Elmet and Rothwell MP Alec Shelbrooke has also given his support to objectors and sent a letter to Mr Pickles to accompany theirs.

“I believe we need more affordable housing built on brownfield land first, and I am also concerned that due processes may not have been followed at LCC in relation to this application,” He said.

LCC executive member for neighbourhoods, planning, and personnel Coun Peter Gruen (Lab) voted in favour of the plans and said they comply with all LCC policies.

He said: “Our officers have held a number of meetings with members and residents in advance of the application being considered and have made every effort to engage with the community at every stage of the planning process.”

Bellway Homes were approached for a comment but did not provide one.