Plans to change the face of Thorpe Park business park on the outskirts of Leeds are going before councillors for the first time this week. The plans have already aroused opposition from people living nearby, and it looks like it’s not going to be plain sailing to get them through the planning process either.
The Scarborough Development Group wants to see use of the site in the east of the city extended from mainly office space to include leisure, cafes, restaurants, 25 acres of public open space and shops, including a 12,000m² supermarket (a Sainsbury’s last we heard).
Councillors are going to discuss the developer’s plan at a council meeting on Thursday 9th August. It’s what’s known as a pre-application presentation, so no decision will be taken.
An application for outline planning permission is expected to be submitted later this month, says a report prepared for the meeting.
On the face of it, there are several significant hurdles that the developers are going to have to overcome if they’re going to get the plans approved by the council.
“Major concerns” over supermarket
“Many of the proposed alternative uses are contrary to both local and national planning policy so would have to be fully justified in order to be supported,” the report from the council’s planning department says.
The developers are not just going to have to justify their inclusion of a big new supermarket on the site. Planning officers aren’t that thrilled with either the location or the look of the proposed new retail units.
“Officers currently believe that … the large scale footprints of the retail units fail to successfully integrate into the grain of either the existing or proposed Thorpe Park. The inevitable parking and servicing associated with such retailers also makes proper integration even more difficult,” the report says.
“In addition to the above, there are major concerns with the location of the large
supermarket being provided in a detached location from the rest of Thorpe Park to the
east of the proposed Manston Lane Link Road,” it adds.
Who’s paying for the road?
Then there’s that road – the much talked-of Manston Lane Link Road (MLLR) that every developer wants, but none apparently wants to pay for – a dual carriageway that would serve as a central spine road for Thorpe Park and form the southern end of a planned outer ring road for east Leeds – the East Leeds Orbital Road.
Getting the road built will almost certainly give the green light to planned housing developments at the nearby Vickers and Optare sites in Cross Gates, but so far construction has been stalled by wrangling between developers over who contributes what part of the costs.
“The developer (Scarborough Development Group) is proposing that the delivery of the MLLR is brought forward. This will help to unlock the remaining housing potential of the Barnbow and Optare sites in Crossgates for development,” the report says.
“Those sites should make a financial contribution to the delivery of the Manston Lane Link road, and Members (councillors) may wish to seek clarification as to how the applicant is proposing to secure the road and the financial contributions,” it adds.
Alarmed at the council’s long-term plans for extensive residential development in the area, plus these plans for Thorpe Park in particular, local people from Barwick and Scholes have set up an action group (Save Our Scholes Community Forum) which has already attracted nearly 700 members on Facebook.
From what we hear they’ve been giving the developers a bit of a rough ride in the public consultation meetings held so far, and were successful in getting a promo page for the Thorpe Park consultation taken down from the website of the Yorkshire Wildlife Trust.
Using the site as a clearing house for news about east Leeds developments from the council, the press and developers, they’re also trying to get their voice heard through forums working on the area’s local neighbourhood plan.
The group see the latest plans for Thorpe Park as just the start of over-development in the area.
“It’s the extension of an established business park that is already a blot on the countryside that’s visible from Scholes and where space is still available for let as not all units have even been occupied…”, says a statement from the group.
They’re vocal too in their opposition to the Manston Lane Link Road: “Certain councillors have spoken out and said ‘the people of East Leeds want this’ – a statement which they should retract as no one wants it, not anyone we know, or anyone in the villages round about,” the statement says.
“We will not stand for this mass urbanisation of East Leeds without putting up a fight … this is a battle brought too close to home for us to just stand by and watch it happen without a fight.”
Regular readers of this blog may recall that the Scarborough Development Group was one of two private partners working with the local Chamber of Commerce and the Council on a development “master plan” for Thorpe Park and surrounding areas.
The plan was announced to great fanfare nearly a year ago … and then sank without trace after certain “conflict of interest” shenanigans were revealed … much to the embarrassment of the council and the Chamber.
The other private partner was the GMI construction group, which is run by Thorpe Park founder Peter Gilman.
It now turns out that while the Scarborough Development Group is promoting its “new” plans for Thorpe Park – which don’t look that different from last year’s plans – GMI is consulting local people about its masterplan for new homes, infrastructure and amenities in the Scholes area.
After last winter’s embarrassment, we suspect that the council will handle this latest Thorpe Park planning application with the greatest of care.