Fury as hearing over future of Leeds' greenbelt is pushed back

Greenbelt activists who raised thousands of pounds to hire a barrister to help with their campaign say they are '˜furious' after Leeds City Council cancelled planned public hearings days before they were due to go ahead.

Martin Hughes, Chair of the YGA, at the Strawberry Fields greenbelt site. Image: Lizzy McEllan
Martin Hughes, Chair of the YGA, at the Strawberry Fields greenbelt site. Image: Lizzy McEllan

Community campaign group the Yorkshire Greenspace Alliance (YGA) say they will now have to fork out thousands more on the rescheduled hearings, which have been pushed back to March 2018.

The group had raised £12,000 in four months to pay for a top planning barrister to help fight a battle against the development of new homes on greenbelt land in Leeds.

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YGA Chairman Martin Hughes, who has been campaigning for seven years, said: “We are unpaid and have given our time and money to this. We now need to fund at least two more rounds of questions and responses.

“We have been completely ignored. Leeds City Council have simply not listened to us.”

The YGA claims it repeatedly told Leeds City Council that its 2014 estimate that Leeds requires 66,000 new homes was too high.

Mr Hughes said: “We know far more about Leeds as community groups than the planners do. We worked it out according to our population.”

The council recently announced its estimate could indeed be too high. It came after a government document was released in September with a new way of calculating the number of homes needed in Leeds. This resulted in a revised estimate of 42,000.

That means the public hearings - which were due to discuss the future of Leeds’ greenbelt last week - had to be put back.

Coun Richard Lewis, Executive Member for Regeneration, Transport and Planning, said: “The government’s latest consultation proposals came out of the blue for all local authorities and we need to take the time to fully consider their implications.

“The timing of the government’s announcement has meant that the public examination schedule is likely to be revised and we apologise for any inconvenience this unforeseen change may cause for participants.”

The council are holding public consultations before the end of the year to take into account the new government proposals and local evidence.