Greenbelt campaign group anger at council U-turn over Leeds housing plans

Martin Hughes, Yorkshire Greenspace Alliance chairman, at Strawberry Fields in Horsforth – one of the sites under threat

By Lizzy McEllan

GREENBELT CAMPAIGNERS who raised thousands of pounds to hire a barrister are furious after Leeds City Council cancelled public hearings just days before they were due to go ahead.

Community activist group, the Yorkshire Greenspace Alliance, will now have to fork out thousands more on new hearings, which have been pushed back to March 2018.

The group raised £12,000 in just four months to pay for a top planning barrister, but now needs to pay for more legal advice at a new round of public consultations.

Chairman of the YGA, Martin Hughes, has been fighting to prevent over-development for seven years and said the area is still at risk despite the council’s U-turn.

He said: “We are unpaid and have given our time and money to this. We now need to fund at least two more rounds of questions and responses. The situation has changed at extremely short notice and we need to pay for yet more legal representation.

“We have been completely ignored. Leeds City Council have simply not listened to us. They have not shown an ounce of introspection.”

The YGA claims it has repeatedly told Leeds City Council that its 2014 estimate for 66,000 new homes was too high.

Mr Hughes added: “We know far more about Leeds as community groups than the planners do. We worked out our housing needs according to our population.

“We want a housing plan, but it has to be the right plan.”

Last Monday (October 2), the council announced its estimate could be too high. It came after a government document was released in September with a new way of calculating the number of homes needed in Leeds. This resulted in a revised estimated figure of 42,000.

That means the public hearings scheduled for today – which were due to discuss the future of Leeds greenbelt – have to be put back.

Coun Richard Lewis, executive member for regeneration, transport and planning, said: “The government’s latest consultation proposals came out of the blue for all local authorities and we need to take the time to fully consider their implications.

“The timing of the government’s announcement has meant that the public examination schedule is likely to be revised and we apologise for any inconvenience this unforeseen change may cause for participants.”

The council is holding fresh public consultations before the end of the year to take into account the new government proposals and local evidence.

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