Plans to change the face of a business park on the eastern outskirts of Leeds have been given the thumbs up by council planners – despite the fact that they go against local and national planning policy.
Councillors will discus the planners’ recommendation tomorrow and then vote on the plans to extend the offer at Thorpe Park from mainly office space to include restaurants, hotels, a gym and shops, including a large supermarket.
On the face of it, you’d think that the Leeds City Council planners had sufficient reason to turn the plans down.
For one, Thorpe Park is out of town, and national and local planning policies say that significant retail development should be focused on town and city centres and not draw punters away from them. (for ‘town’ in this case read Garforth, Cross Gates, Seacroft etc)
For two, among those objecting to the plans are the Crown Point and Colton retail parks, plus developers Hammerson, who are set to build the new Victoria Gate shopping complex in Leeds city centre, and John Lewis, the anchor store at Victoria Gate.
Keeping John Lewis and Hammerson sweet is usually a good plan.
Road to nowhere?
So why the thumbs up?
Because if they say no, ambitious plans to build up to 6,000 new houses and a £100m+ new dual carriageway in east Leeds would be at risk.
The road – dubbed the East Leeds Orbital Road – is the key. ‘No houses till the road gets built’ is what an important council committee was saying earlier this year.
The trouble is that the road – planned to run from the A58 down to the M1 – ends up going through Thorpe Park. And Thorpe Park’s developers say they can’t afford to build their key part of it unless they’re given permission to extend the uses of their business park.
No permission, no road. No road, no houses.
Throw in the promise of 13,000 jobs and a new park and it feels like the Thorpe Park development being decided by councillors tomorrow is one that can’t be refused.
What they say is that this isn’t your normal type of development but “enabling development”.
“Enabling development is development that would be unacceptable in planning terms but for the fact that it brings public benefits at a scale sufficient to justify it being carried out,” they explain in a report prepared for tomorrow’s meeting.
And the public benefits in this case?
“The proposed development is closely linked with the delivery of key infrastructure … crucial in the phasing of the provision of the East Leeds Orbital Road (ELOR) and the provision of approximately 6,000 houses in the East Leeds housing allocation that forms a significant part of the Council’s housing land supply,” says the report.
Once approval is secured tomorrow, the plans will be referred to the Secretary of State for final approval as they affect greenbelt land.
Firmed up plans for the road will follow soon after.
Max and Tilly
Regular readers of this blog (Max and Tilly Saville-Rowe of Chapel Allerton) will be saying to themselves by now: east Leeds? Thorpe Park? why does that ring a bell? weren’t there plans for something like this a couple of years ago? and didn’t it all go a bit pear-shaped?
That was in the past. And the past is history.
All those in favour? All those against?