Garnets residents fight for green space

Local residents are fighting for a green community space to be included in a new housing development in the heart of their neighbourhood.

GarnetsThe Garnets – a terraced neighbourhood just off Dewsbury Road in Beeston Hill – saw 78 houses demolished in 2012, at the end of a controversial regeneration project stretching back to 2005.

The land has stood empty since then. But now the Council is looking to build new council housing on the site. The current proposal is for 25 two- and three-bed family houses on the 0.4 hectare site.

However, residents have been meeting over the past six months to form a campaign for green community space to be included in the plans.

They are arguing that such a space would improve the environment for both current and incoming residents, provide a positive social and play environment for children and those of all ages, and a venue for neighbourhood events – such as the acclaimed bonfire party they held last November.

Brian Smeaton, a Garnets resident and one of those involved in the campaign, commented:

“We’re not saying they shouldn’t build houses, but we were promised a green patch. It would make a vast difference, and – because we’re talking to the next door Vale Centre about looking after the space – it’d cost the Council nothing. They’re breaking promises – we wish they’d have some consideration for us.”

Furthermore, the group are talking with a wide range of people and organisations, local and beyond – and finding considerable support. South Leeds Life understands that Leeds Federated – who own and manage a number of properties in the neighbourhood –supports its tenants’ view that the plans should include some communal green space.

Academics from both Leeds and Leeds Beckett universities are advising them – and helping them argue their case from a range of angles, including health and well-being, flooding, and the impact of building design upon community life. And they’re looking to form partnerships with local charities and organisations including The Vale Circles, Leeds Citizens, and the Beeston Green Streets project.

January saw a public consultation event on the proposed scheme, with 30+ locals turning out to see the plans for the scheme, and give their feedback. Many were voicing their concerns and frustrations.

Local resident and campaign member Ruth Granger said she likes the designs, but also insists that the Council promised them green space. “They asked us for our ideas for the space when they demolished the houses, many of us responded, but nothing happened. Now there’s this housing scheme all of a sudden, and they don’t seem to be interested in what we think. It’s incredibly frustrating.”

Earlier in January, City and Hunslet councillor Patrick Davey told South Leeds Life:

“Whilst this ward needs more green space, it desperately needs new housing, particularly family housing with gardens. I do have concerns that 150 houses (sic) were demolished and the net result is that we have 125 fewer homes than previous, though admittedly better.

“I would not therefore support the dilution of this number any further by the provision of community green space.”

However, following the recent consultation event, Cllr Peter Gruen – Leeds City Council’s executive member for neighbourhoods, planning and personnel – added:

“The proposed development at The Garnets is part of our ambition to deliver quality council homes that helps regenerate neighbourhoods, bring growth to and benefit communities as a whole. We don’t underestimate the impact that open green space can have on people’s health and well-being, and the important role it plays in making a community a great place to live. We’ll assess people’s feedback on green space alongside a number of other considerations.”

The proposed scheme is now likely to be scheduled for the planning panel in the coming months, with residents and others able to comment further before that. To stay updated, visit the planning section of the Council website, look out for planning posters in the neighbourhood, or keep an eye on South Leeds Life.