South of the River – planning our future


Compass-SouthPlanning is a hot topic round our way. The battle between Tesco and Asda comes to a head on Thursday when the Council’s South and West Plans Plan will also hear a pre-application presentation from Aspiring Communities about their site on Barkly Road.

Meanwhile the whole city is being consulted about the latest part of the Leeds Planning Framework. With “Your City. Your Say.” (I have to say I’m not keen on the full stops) we are invited to help the Council shape the Site Allocations Plan.

We are asked to think about a growing city. The population is forecast to grow by 100,000 or 13% over the next 15 years. We are presented with a range of possible sites for the additional housing that will be needed, for employment and retail and for greenspace.

This is a spatial exercise – what should be located where. It’s great for people like me who love maps.

Here at Morton Towers, we do have pictures on the walls, but we also have maps. Caxton’s map of Yorkshire that I inherited from my Dad, a map of the vineyards around Beaune in Burgundy where we spent a lovely family holiday and a map of the Lakeland fells rendered in the style of the London tube map. In my view these are works of art too. I’ll save the Periodic Table of the Elements for another time, but I think that’s a rather beautiful map of what the universe is made of.

So I can quite happily look at maps all day. I like map puzzles. Take site 3394 in the current consultation. It’s on Dewsbury Road, near Old Lane. Surely there are no empty sites round there, ah it must be Concourse House. I hadn’t heard that they were planning to redevelop – the things you learn in consultation exercises!

The problem with the consultation is that it is so big, so all encompassing. The Council will say just look at your neighbourhood. But for many people just finding their neighbourhood is a struggle. Then you have to cross-reference the sites in one of eleven separate documents.

I do believe that Leeds City Council is making a genuine attempt to involve us, but as with many of these consultations, the conundrum is that there is never enough information and there’s always too much.

The answer, possibly, lies in Holbeck.

In Holbeck they are formulating a Neighbourhood Plan. They are taking their time to understand the issues, they have experts on hand to explain the Planning system. It’s all being done at a human scale and on a human timescale. The plan, if approved by a local referendum will have statutory weight. It will be the plan that developers will have to fit in with.

Timing is always very important in planning as I’ve written about previously. Holbeck has suffered from plans that were developed before the economic crisis. The demolitions have taken place, but we’re left waiting for the rebuilding. The timing of the Neighbourhood Plan might be fortuitous. There is a lull in development, there is time to think and plan before developers come back and the cranes fill the skyline again.

Neighbourhood Plans are one of these strange creations of the current government that seem to go against everything else they stand for. The Community Organisers programme is another example. Community organising has its roots in the slums of Sao Paulo and Chicago. Why would a government intent on privatising services and lining the pockets of their friends, of letting the market decide, fund a programme to help ordinary people get together and challenge authority?

Jeremy MortonMy suggestion is that we don’t think about that for too long, but we grab the opportunity whilst it’s there. So I do encourage you to have a look at “Your City. Your Say.” and make your comments, but also see if you can grab yourself a Neighbourhood Plan for your area.

I’ll be back next week with more of my views from South of the River. If you’re on Twitter, you can follow me: @BeestonJeremy.

5 Replies to “South of the River – planning our future”

  1. Surely the best way of encouraging consultation on the sites allocation process would be to arrange local displays and consultations – are any planned? – and to make them the responsibility of Area Committees? It is difficult to escape the view that the exercise is anything other than a tick box exercise to meet the requirement for consultation,.

    In terms of Neighbourhood Plans I think the government realised that unless you find some way of getting people on side particularly in areas where there is likely to be considerable housing growth there would be endless planning arguments which would make local coalition politicians exceedingly unpopular as they predominate in areas where such growth will occur. I think they are also aimed at diminishing the power and influence of locally elected officials by going over their heads to local people so I’m not so sure they are contrary to this government’s underlying philosophy.

    However they do provide opportunities for people to get involved and as you say people should do so. I think the crucial issue is ensuring the maximisation of planning gain and that it is very locally applied so that if communities suffer the downsides of additional development they get the benefits.

  2. Any news on Asda &amp Tesco wars?

    Some are saying it will be bad news for shops on Dewsbury Road.
    Don’t think so, as most of these are Takeaways.

    1. Kenneth, we’re all waiting for Thursday’s Plans Panel meeting. Although that may not be the end of it, as unsuccessful bidders might be able appeal the decision.

  3. “Local, Loved,Trusted” Saturday 22/6 11-3pm Leeds City Museum is thus a great place to meet some of the Community Organiser trainees including yours truly via our stall at and to talk about the potential &amp any apparent contradictions of the England-wide programme.

    Speaking of São Paulo (and thus – check out this free 3 day option in Burnley 24-26 June…

  4. Think it would be great especially the much needed local jobs this would create – I’m 100% behind it whoever it maybe from the two big supermarkets.

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