Earlier today (3 March) I attended, as a viewing member of the public, the City Plans Panel meeting where Leeds Council Members discussed the proposals for Tetley Field and the wider plans concerning Headingley Stadium. I’m glad to say that Members expressed some significant concerns about the proposals.
The section of the meeting concerning the Stadium plans began with a presentation from the developer (representatives of Leeds Rugby), followed by a response from Weetwood Residents Association on behalf of the local community, concluding with questions and comments from Members. Full minutes of the meeting will follow shortly on http://democracy.leeds.gov.uk, but I feel it is reasonable at this early stage to share my general impressions of Members’ views:
Members’ key concern regarded the planning process adopted by the developer. The plans were presented to the meeting as 3 “Pre-Applications”, one concerning the redevelopment of the Stadium itself, the other two concerning the proposed housing developments at Weetwood and Tingley. The key problem Members had was that the Stadium plans were presented as being dependent on the granting of planning permission for the two housing sites. Members were uncomfortable with this and stated that they would prefer the applications to be presented separately, so they could be considered individually on their own merits.
A related issue was timing. The developer stated that they have a tight timescale (driven by the requirements of the cricket authorities), and hope to begin building this September. Members commented that this may well be too tight a timescale, both in terms of the Site Allocation process for these two Green Belt sites, and in terms of a planning application itself which may need be referred to the Secretary of State.
Another problem Members commented on was the lack of direct benefits to local residents. The developer made the case that there would be local community benefit through the improved Stadium and through the rugby and cricket clubs’ community/charitable activities. Members felt however that this argument was weak and that there were no obvious direct benefits to residents in Weetwood or Tingley from the Stadium redevelopment.
In addition, two underlying uncertainties were commented on. Firstly, a redeveloped Stadium would not necessarily guarantee the future of international cricket at Headingley. Secondly, uncertainties over the funding package proposed.
As these were Pre-Applications, no formal recommendations were made by Members, but my strong impression was that they had significant reservations about the plans. The developers’ presentation mentioned that they intended to make their 3 planning applications before the end of March. It will be interesting to see if this turns out to be the case in the light of Members’ comments. The next meeting of the City Plans Panel is on 24 March.
It should be mentioned in closing that Weetwood Residents Association’s presentation was both convincing and professional, and I am grateful that they were able to make such an effective representation on behalf of local residents like myself.
(4 March update – the Yorkshire Evening Post has also covered this story)