Councillors have approved a change in planning permission for JM Construction to convert a retail unit into five flats at the Victoria Riverside development in Hunslet.
As we reported in October, the development of historic mill buildings into 350 flats was due to include a retail unit. JM Construction say they’ve marketed the opportunity for two years, but have been unable to secure a tenant for the unit.
Residents at the nearby H2010 say they’ve seen it before with their developer, Miller Homes, converting the planned retail unit into flats. One resident, Stephen, addressed the South & West Plans Panel which considered the change on Thursday (17 March 2022).
He told the meeting that existing shops – Tesco at Leeds Dock, Hunslet Morrisons, etc – were not easy to get to, lying across busy major roads. He said a car was almost essential to access them, but the Council’s policy is to discourage such short car journeys which cause the greatest level of pollution.
Cllr Paul Wray (Hunslet & Riverside) who referred the decision to Panel also spoke against the application. He said the developer’s marketing of the retail unit had been half-hearted and hadn’t accurately described the potential footfall of nearby developments and the busy riverside path.
Planning officers recommended approving the change and said the Council would have a very weak case if the developer appealed against a refusal.
Cllr Colin Campbell (Otley & Yeadon) summed up the position of most of the Councillors on the panel, saying:
“We are between a rock and a hard place … whatever we might want, we can’t say no because they’d get it on appeal.”
Commenting on the decision Cllr Wray told South Leeds Life:
“Cllr Nash, Iqbal, and I are deeply disappointed this application has been approved due to a technicality related to the original permission for the site.
“It is clear the developer knew they needed to offer a retail until to obtain the original planning permission and no largescale developer offers something unless they feel they must. But as the developer was not conditioned at the time to ensure this happened, they cannot be bound by it. If not for this technicality and the risk of costs to the council should the developer appeal due to it – we feel the panel would have declined the application.
“The need for a retail unit here is clear and the demand will only grow. But the developer has chosen quicker profits over helping to build a more sustainable community. This is deeply disappointing.”