We have just four minutes to save our homes

This Thursday, 30th May just after 1pm, Leeds City Council will hear the planning application for the demolition of our beloved homes. It’s crunch time.

We’re going to need all the support we can get – not least because we only have 4 minutes to remind the Council of our plight. Just 4 minutes… divided between resident Cindy Readman, National Union of Miners’ Chris Kitchen, and Lib Dem Councillor Stewart Golton. Ninety seconds each.

 

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Four minutes to save safe gardens and streets for our children (Photo Credit: Sarah, resident).

We’ve had a glimpse of which way Leeds City Council might lean – the Plans Panel officer overseeing this application has concluded that there are no convincing and reasonable planning grounds to refuse the proposal. “Sorry, what?” I hear you say. Indeed.

This recommendation for approval comes in spite of public recognition that the demolition will:

  • Break up a close knit community of low income pensioners, families, young couples, and individuals who all rely on each other for companionship and daily assistance;
  • Destroy architectural and community heritage – one of the largest Airey estates in the country and still housing many ex-miners and their families;
  • Not contribute any increase in housing stock in the Oulton, Rothwell and Woodlesford area, contravening the National Planning Policy Framework;
  • Reduce the number of affordable rentals in Oulton, Rothwell and Woodlesford – an area where ONE family might have to wait over SEVENTY WEEKS in emergency accommodation for a council house to become available;
  • Add a significant carbon footprint to the area with the years-long construction process and the nature of vehicles that typically accompany inhabitants of executive housing;
  • Legitimise a culture of “managed decline” whereby landlords undertake bare minimum maintenance while accumulating rents until they decide an asset is not profitable enough.

These objections are not only from the mouths of the residents who potentially face homelessness in a number of months; they have come in the form of 64 third party objections and 2,200 petition signatures.

And these aren’t just any “third parties”.

Pemberstone’s planning application has been objected to by: Conservative MP Alec Shelbrooke, the local Labour Party, the local Lib Dem Party, the Oulton Society, the National Union of Mineworkers, Leeds Civic Trust, Oulton Health Centre, the Twentieth Century Society, Hands Off Our Homes, the Prefbab Museum, the Outer South Community Committee, scores of individuals and more than 2,200 petitioners – AND IT STILL GETS RECOMMENDED FOR APPROVAL?

As we’ve written elsewhere, there is a worrying culture of “Pavements Over People” in council decision-making around housing developments (i.e. planning law cares about width of pavement and height of houses etc much more than the people). But this does not mean councillors have to agree with this status quo – especially when precedent has emerged elsewhere of a different way forward (see Foxhill in Bath).

Pemberstone have of course been attempting to rebut all objections with carefully-timed reports*. One of their latest is a “Travel Plan”, which suggests new inhabitants of these executive houses can abandon their gas-guzzling vehicles by taking advantage of apparently excellent public transport links. These include a bus service in the estate, bus links in walking distance on Wakefield Road and walkable supermarkets.

Excuse me while I choke on my tea.

Paragon Highways, authors of the travel plan, have obviously never actually visited Wordsworth Drive and Sugar Hill Close before. And certainly not by the 446 bus. If they had, they might have a better idea of the reality: unreliable buses that fail to turn up on time (if at all); timetables that mean working people have to leave an hour’s commute for somewhere only 20 minutes away by car; expensive daily fares; weekly passes not available on buses but in city centres miles away; and an unsafe crossing to reach the bus stop.

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Ahh, the joys of public transport. The 153 runs every 90 mins between 09:30 and 15:30. Perfect for getting to work. If you work part time. In Rothwell or Castleford. (Photo: Hazell, resident).

A supermarket in walking distance? Yep, there’s nothing like a 2 mile-round walk to Lidl, up- and down-hill with a zimmerframe. Doesn’t matter how many Public Transport Ticketing gimmicks Pemberstone can offer new executive residents, it’s not going to make the 446 run on time. Or the 153 run to normal office hours.

Terrible public transport, no local shops. For Pemberstone to pretend otherwise is a sham. The fact that there is any sense of community in our estate in these isolated circumstances shows just how precious it is. And it undermines any argument that Pemberstone might put forward about future residents reducing car usage.

Our neighbours already share cars, take the few buses on offer and walk where they can.

These details matter. And they’re what we have to try and get across when we address Leeds City Council on Thursday. Can you support us?

Help us save our homes in four minutes. Join us at Civic Hall on the 30 May just before 1pm.

—————-

* Pemberstone’s reports are as reliable and content-rich as the morning’s bowel movements. A week or so before LCC Plans Panel are anticipated to meet (usually at the end of the month), Pemberstone has been known to drop a hefty, and mightily expensive, consultant’s report in the document portal of the planning application. Could this be a tactic to prevent anyone from mounting a decent response (or the council from reading it through in detail)?

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