Next week the ANDF attends the Royal Courts of Justice, London with MP Stuart Andrew, to challenge the decision by Leeds City Council to delete four, purposeful and valuable Green Belt sites in Aireborough.
We are not against house building, we are not against house building in Aireborough – we know that the area needs specific types of smaller, well designed and affordable properties; our work on the Neighbourhood Plan has told us that.
But, the Leeds Site Allocation Plan (SAP), will not deliver what is needed; not for housing, not for infrastructure and not for our green environment which needs to be regenerated in line with its ecological value as part of the South Pennines landscape.
In addition, the Leeds SAP has not been put together, as is required by law, in conjunction with local people. A huge number of representations from local residents were against the plan on the grounds of both current sustainability issues and how plans would exacerbate these. People who have never written a letter in the 40 years since they left school, came to us to help them understand how they could make their feelings known in consultations that would not win awards for ‘consumer friendliness, or plain English’.
Our own Neighbourhood Plan researched evidence gave other ways of fulfilling local needs, which we worked on with the Academy of Urbanism, a group of innovative, professional planners. We pointed out, with the help of Council for the Protection of Rural England (CPRE), why the case for Green Belt deletion via exceptional circumstances was flawed – see here. But, none of us, not, residents, MPs, Councillors, or the ANDF were listened to. Not by Leeds City Council, and not by the Planning Inspector charged with examining the plan. In the end, the SAP was brought to fruition so quickly at the end of 2018/19 that mistakes were made.
This is why we have asked for the decision to be looked at again. Although that too has been hard won. Leeds City Council, along with two Developers, claimed that the ANDF did not have the legal capacity to challenge their decision. The City Council refused to redesignate the ANDF as a Neighbourhood Forum to do the Neighbourhood Plan, in the statutory time limit and then used this as evidence for our lack of legal standing!!
Their claim was refused in court last December, with our designation as a Neighbourhood Forum being deemed to have no bearing on the matter. Which means that we have won the right for local groups all over the UK to properly challenge decisions that they feel are unjustified and not evidenced. A right for more democratic accountability in which Airborough people have played a part.
It is just unfortunate that such legal claims cost a great deal of money for good legal representation, and there is no available legal aid. Aireborough, has no Parish Council and so there is no available public money for such situations – it has to be crowdfunded. But in essence that also means it has to have local support – which is also a form of local democracy.
We have been crowdfunding for this legal case since July 2018, and have had a team of local residents helping, organized by Liz Kirkpatrick, whom we must thank for all their efforts. They have gone out on nice, warm, days and freezing days to take the message to people.
We must also thank all the over 1,500 residents who have helped so far with donations, and all the the letters, comments and remarks of support and appreciation for what we are doing.
So, in the last weekend before we take our challenge to court, we have turned to the sites deleted from the Aireborough Green Belt and identified the value we know they have to people. These are not the points on which we base our case, but they are the ‘heart felt’ points people make about them.
This may be an historic record of what was, or we may be able to preserve and enhance it through a Neighbourhood Plan – the case will be made next week by our Barrister from Landmark Chambers, Jenny Wigley. So, lastly we’d like to thank her and our legal team at Town Legal for all their support.