Planning 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?
My 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.