Leeds city council says it has come to an agreement with the owners of the Thorpe Park business park which could help free up nearly 600 acres of land in east Leeds for commercial and residential development.
Use of the land for housing and business has been stalled for years because every planning application for the area has been tied to the building of a major new motorway link road – known as the Manston Lane Link Road (MLLR) – and no-one has wanted to pay for it.
Now the Council says it’s been in talks with Thorpe Park’s owners, the Scarborough Group, and the deadlock appears to have been broken.
“Discussions have taken place with the Developer to look at the possibility of entering into an agreement for the early construction of the MLLR as a dual carriageway road,” says a report to be discussed at next Wednesday’s meeting of the Council’s Executive.
Details of the agreement, which the Executive is being asked to approve, are being kept secret.
“The proposed terms for this agreement are outlined in the confidential appendix to this report for Executive Board to consider,” the report says.
At this stage the agreement is being described as a “framework for delivery” of the road. It doesn’t put the Scarborough Group under any obligations, the Council insists. Any development will take time too because of the “complex planning and landownership issues that need to be resolved”.
But construction of the road, which would form the southern end of a future East Leeds Orbital Road, would help free up 560 acres of greenfield residential land for development in an area known as the East Leeds Extension.
Given that the details of the agreement are secret, one can only guess at who’s going to end up paying for the road.
Under an earlier agreement with the Council, the Scarborough Group was supposed to build the road once floor space at Thorpe Park reached 1m sq ft. But Thorpe Park is a long way shy of that figure and the Scarborough Group has been insisting for years that given the slow pace of growth, it can’t afford to pay for the road and probably won’t be able to for another 10-15 years.
Owners of adjacent land at the old Vickers tank factory (Threadneedle Property Investments) – who have been waiting for the road so they can put up hundreds of new homes – said last year that they would be prepared to pay for some of it, but had got nowhere in talks with the Scarborough Group.
“The proposed agreement will enable the Developer to enter into further negotiations with the adjacent landowners with greater confidence in respect of the delivery of the MLLR,” the report says.
The announcement goes a long way to explaining last month’s launch by the local Chamber of Commerce and the Scarborough Group of their major new development initiative for the area, dubbed New East Leeds – an initiative which included the housing at the old Vickers plant.
With an agreement with the Council in the bag, the Scarborough Group and the Chamber presumably felt they could jump the gun with their announcement and get in first with their plans for developing the area.
Which, as we know, caused significant embarrassment and irritation at the Council, who say they were unaware of the New East Leeds initiative. You can understand why they were miffed. Without the Council-Scarborough agreement on the road, the New East Leeds initiative wouldn’t have been possible.
It’ll be interesting to see how the ‘partners’ (the Council, the Chamber and the developers) take it from here.