Save Parlington campaigners celebrate Leeds City Council’s green belt U-turn over Site Allocation Plan

3 January  2019   ......    Residents in Aberford celebrate after a proposed huge housing development on the Parlington Estate was blocked. Picture Tony Johnson.
3 January 2019 ...... Residents in Aberford celebrate after a proposed huge housing development on the Parlington Estate was blocked. Picture Tony Johnson.

Ecstatic campaigners are claiming a “victory for people power” after a council U-turn over controversial plans to build thousands of homes on their leafy estate.

Leeds City Council in 2016 revealed early proposals for its Site Allocations Plan, a blueprint for development for the next decade, which earmarked locations including green belt sites across Leeds for new housing.

It prompted a wave of resistance from campaigners, after almost 2,000 homes were proposed to be built in on the Parlington estate, between Aberford and Barwick-in-Elmet.

However, following a two-year battle led by the Save Parlington action group, the council yesterday revealed that earmarked sites at Parlington and Stourton Grange would now “not be considered for development”, following advice from Government-appointed inspectors.

Adrienne Sykes, chairwoman of the campaign group, said: “We are absolutely delighted.

“It’s a victory for people power.

“It’s not just what it means to residents in East Leeds, it’s saving the green belt and historic sites.”

The Parlington estate has areas of historical significance, including Iron Age British settlements and an 18th-century triumphal arch.

The inspectors’ report came after a lengthy public consultation in 2018, which gathered more than 50,000 written comments.

In their comments on the plan, they said fewer green belt sites now needed to be developed, but praised the council’s “sound” approach to safeguarding land, including how it aims to maximise the use of brownfield sites.

Mum-of-two Mrs Sykes added: “Members of the campaign group have worked tirelessly for the last 27 months.

“At every twist and turn we thought people would tire, but we just gained more support.

“We are not anti-development. It just needs to be in the right place.”

The campaign group had been backed by Elmet and Rothwell MP Alec Shelbrooke, and local ward councillors whose constituents would have been affected.

Homes were previously recommended to be built on a 600-acre plot of land near Headley Hall in Bramham, before those plans were abandoned, forcing changes to the plan and the selection of Parlington.

Mr Shelbrooke said: “The verdict of the Inspectors is to be welcomed. It means greenbelt land in my constituency will be protected whilst 50,000 new homes will still be built across Leeds to meet rising demand.

“I’m not happy with all of the plan as there will still be agricultural land that will be developed whilst brownfield sites remain undeveloped, but on balance it is good news that Leeds City Council will now have to modify its plan to protect the greenbelt”.

More than 3,000 letters of objection were submitted against the plans for the estate during the first round of consultations, rising to 6,000 by the time the final deadline closed.

Coun Ryan Stephenson, who supported the campaign, said it was a “well-deserved victory”.

“For over two years we’ve argued that the use of greenbelt was unnecessary and I’m delighted that Government inspectors have agreed with us forcing the council to reverse its plans,“ he said.

“In my time as a councillor I’ve worked with a lot of community groups but the approach taken by the Save Parlington action group has been phenomenal and it’s been a genuine pleasure to help and support them.”

The modified masterplan will now be subject to a further six-week consultation.

Coun Richard Lewis, the council’s executive member for regeneration, transport and planning said: “We are grateful to the inspectors and, subject to a number of main modifications, are delighted they have indicated our Site Allocation Plan is sound, especially our approach to housing growth to 2023 and focus on green belt protection.

“We look forward to discussing this key issue at executive board and then the consultation on the proposed modifications as we hopefully move towards the end of this process with a plan adopted to guide future growth in a sustainable way bringing an end to speculative development in Leeds.”