Leeds councillors defend themselves over Cross Gates Wetherspoons saga

The site in Cross Gates.
The site in Cross Gates.

Councillors defended themselves today after a Government intervention to approve proposals for a new pub in Leeds.

JD Wetherspoons won an appeal after members of Leeds City Council’s North and East Plans Panel – some of whom had concerns over highways and noise – failed to make a decision about whether to agree the plan for a former doctor’s surgery in Austhorpe Road in Cross Gates at meetings.

A Government-appointed inspector gave the go-ahead in February and ordered the council to pay the company’s costs for the “wasted expense” of an appeal process. A claim for £8,550 has been submitted, which the council is considering.

The panel re-convened yesterday, and Coun Kevin Ritchie took issue with the inspector’s view that members “preferred the opinion of interested persons over the professional opinion of the applicant’s noise consultant and its own Environmental Health Officer”.

Coun Ritchie said: “That’s certainly not the case in my experience and we don’t side with any party,” he said.

“I took that as a bit of an insult from the inspector.”

He added that it’s important that the panel does not take reports at face value.

Fellow Labour member Coun Elizabeth Nash said: “I accept no blame for this decision whatsoever. It came to me at the 11th hour.”

Panel chairman Coun Neil Walshaw said: “From the applicant’s point of view and from parts of the council there was lots of to-ing and fro-ing of late information.”

Coun Mark Dobson, an independent who previously defected from Labour, said the panel had “veered dangerously away” from using policy as a precedent during previous meetings.

He is one of several new panel members after the election.