Wetherby science labs homes plan welcomed

MP Alec Shelbrooke in the House of Commons.
MP Alec Shelbrooke in the House of Commons.
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Plans to demolish the former Forensic Science Laboratories and replace them with 65 homes are being welcomed by Wetherby councillors.

Unlike other proposed developments, such as Grove Road in Boston Spa and Spofforth Hill, the Sandbeck Way site, formerly used as Home Office forensic labs until March 2012, is on brownfield land because of its former industrial/commercial use.

Following Elmet and Rothwell MP Alec Shelbrooke’s arguments in Parliament that such sites should be developed before greenfield is considered, Wetherby councillors said the application by Miller Homes, now validated by Leeds City Council (LCC), is an acceptable alternative to other proposals that could see the disappearance of rural land.

Wetherby Coun Alan Lamb (Con) said: “In general people would prefer it if there was not any development anywhere ever but that is not realistic, so our preference is that it is on sites where there was previous development, so this is not the worst place for housing.

“We are developing a neighbourhood plan identifying the needs and demands for housing and services and the key thing that has come from it is that while people are not opposed to housing per se, we need to be careful where it goes and it needs to provide for infrastructure.”

The plans are currently pending consideration, though if they are passed by LCC, work to remove the single and two storey labs, office buildings, the boiler house, and the chimney will begin lasting for two months.

Wetherby Coun John Procter (Con) said: “The argument we are having in places like Boston Spa is that brownfield sites can and should come before greenfield sites and be used for development.

“It is interesting that it is Miller Homes applying for the Forensic Science Service and at Grove Road in Boston Spa. We suggest that they should concentrate on that land rather than greenfield sites.”

Though there are mature trees along the site boundaries, these will be incorporated into part of the landscaping for the site and the ecological survey of the site said that this was not affected by the development but presented a good opportunity to enhance biodiversity.

Coun Procter said: “I have had no formal objections. That said, I had discussions with the developers at an earlier stage and I said the tree belt needed to stay in its entirety.

“It shouldn’t be altered and no entry points should be through that tree belt. To lose any of it would be inappropriate in my view. Providing that this doesn’t happen, I suspect that local people will support the development.”

In the planning statement it states the development will provide economic, social, and environmental benefits and constitutes sustainable development.

A Miller Homes spokesperson said: “As part of our plans, the existing building would be demolished to make way for a development of 65 high quality family homes, creating much needed new housing in the Wetherby area.

“We received a couple of objections and changes were made to our plans to accommodate these concerns. We are now waiting to hear back from the council regarding when our application will go to committee.”