Decision over £14m garden centre in West Yorkshire put on ice due to concerns over environment and public transport

A decision on whether to allow a new £14m garden centre to be built in south Leeds has been postponed, due to concerns around the environment and whether it is accessible by public transport.

The site in Thorpe Lane, Tingley

The company behind Tong Garden Centre wants permission to build a brand new garden centre and soft play area at the former Acanthus Golf Club off Thorpe Lane in Tingley, which is expected to provide up to 250 jobs.

A document, written by Leeds City Council licensing chiefs, had recommended the site is approved in principle by councillors.

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But during a Leeds City Council South and West Plans Panel meeting this week, councillors said they were uneasy about building on the site, which technically sits in the green belt, and expressed concerns that the site appeared to only be accessible by car.

Commenting on the application, Coun Barry Anderson (Con) said: “I am conflicted over this one. I can see the jobs growth benefit, and with the number of housing allocations close to the locality, people will need access to a garden centre. However, I am concerned that this is in the green belt and it could have a negative effect on climate change.

“I am also not happy at the lack of measurements on positive effects on what will happen here. There isn’t any local endorsement by members that they support this use locally. For those reasons, I can’t vote for it.”

Coun Paul Wray (Lab) added: “I am very much the same as Coun Anderson. I take some umbridge with the idea that families don’t use buses and they only use cars. It isn’t meeting a biodiversity net gain, which raises concerns for me. I can’t vote against this and I can’t vote for it either.”

The site, which was formerly used as a golf club and driving range, now sits derelict.

Coun Robert Finnigan (Morley Borough Independents) supported the application, saying: “I know this site well. It is an eyesore site. Colleagues would have benefited from seeing how grotty and run down this is. It doesn’t enhance green belt, it detracts significantly from it.

“Morley North and South wards have 3,000 people on Universal Credit – I suspect my Middleton colleagues will have an even higher rate than that. It is inevitably the case that we have to do everything we can to support local employment opportunities – and this will create them.

“On balance, it’s an eyesore sight that contributes nothing positive, and with the level of employment, this is an application I can support.”

Responding to Coun Finnigan, Coun Colin Campbell (Lib Dem) said: “I have no doubt it is a grotty site, but simply because landowners allow sites to become grotty, it shouldn’t be in itself a reason to set aside green belt policy.

“I appreciate the market for jobs, but I don’t see why it is necessary to build on the green belt. Once you lose green belt, you lose it forever.”

Chairing the meeting, Coun Caroline Gruen (Lab) acknowledged that members wanted a guarantee that a good number of the jobs would be local, and accessible.

She suggested conditions be requested for local jobs and on the range and quantity of retail, as well as a requirement for the developers to demonstrate improvements to biodiversity, and the provision of a shuttle bus.

Members voted for the proposals, and the application has now been deferred for a decision at later date – likely to be this summer.

Caroline Gruen is standing as the Labour Party candidate in the local elections on May 6 for the Bramley and Stanningley ward. The other candidates are:

Elizabeth Anne Bee – Liberal Democrats

Adam Daniel Cook – Conservative Party

Clive Richard Lord – Green Party

Daniel Paul Whetstone – Social Democratic Party