Council leaders gave the green light to two new initiatives in Leeds today – a park and ride scheme located on Elland Rd and a new mini-park at the office development on Sovereign St (where the Queen’s Hall used to be).
They also bowed to the voice of the public and formally shelved the idea of introducing charges for residents’ parking permits in the city.
No surprise with the three decisions, which were among those taken this afternoon by senior councillors who sit on the council’s executive.
The £2.8m park-and-ride scheme – which aroused opposition locally – got planning permission towards the end of last month. So it was always going to be a thumbs-up today from the Labour-run executive, whatever the opposition might say.
And what did the opposition say? “Park-and-ride, great idea. This location, wrong idea,” was how Conservative councillor John Procter summed things up.
Labour’s Cllr Richard Lewis, the councillor in charge of the city’s development and economy, responded: “We’ve done work on the impacts on local housing and we’re confident that the increase in traffic will be absolutely marginal and residents won’t notice it.
“Short of us coming up with a site that doesn’t belong to us that would cost a huge amount of money to purchase in the first place and would delay things still further, here we’ve got a site that is close to the motorway, close to the Ring Road, is at a point where a lot of vehicles can access it, and I believe it can work.”
Leeds water features pledge
The Sovereign Square “green space” (it’s a mini-park, but without the swings) went through on the nod. No objections. Not a single comment.
The space is going to include a tree-lined boulevard, grassed area, water feature, rain garden, lighting and outdoor seating plus a potential “street cafe environment”.
And even though there aren’t many kids in the artist impression above (hang on, I just spotted a few more, and they look very orderly and haven’t got a ball between them), we’re assured that the space is going to be for families too.
“We’re creating a space that isn’t just for office workers, but is genuinely for all members of the Leeds community,” Cllr Lewis told the meeting.
Worth noting that when he touched on the water feature – an area where water will “bubble and pulse from under the stone paving providing an exciting and interactive space for both children and adults” – Cllr Lewis made what sounded like a pledge.
“One of our problems as a local authority is that we have big fountains that merely bubble and pulse. We have to be very clear that we are taking a different view of how we manage water features in the future to ensure that they do what it says on the can.”
You can find out more about the park-and-ride and the city centre “green space” in last week’s trailer to today’s decisions.
Parking permit charges – “we have to take it on the chin”
The plan went out to public consultation in summer and received what Cllr Lewis told the meeting was “perhaps the biggest (consultation) response that I can recall in terms of numbers”.
And the response, as you can see from this report, was pretty unanimously ‘no, thanks’.
“We did the right thing. We listened to what people said,” Cllr Lewis told his fellow senior councillors today. “They were very clear that they thought we were wrong in moving forward on this particular proposal. We have to take that on the chin and listen to what people say.”
“I do get something positive out of this,” he added, “in that isn’t it good that so many people engage with us?”
“We’re so used to people not engaging or engaging in an instant way, whereas actually people bothered with this, and while it didn’t get to where I’d have hoped it got to, people had absolutely the right to do that, and many of the reasons they came up with were very sensible and made us think again and we should listen.”
There’s some background to today’s decision in last week’s trailer.