School site homes set for approval

CONTENTIOUS plans to turn a former school site in Leeds into homes look set to be backed when members meet this week despite widespread opposition to the loss of playing fields.

The proposals stalled when they were last before councillors because of the threat of a legal challenge but councillors are now being urged to give the proposals the green light when they meet.

More than 1,000 letters have been sent to the council, many objecting to the loss of playing fields.

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Planners meet on Thursday to discuss five planning applications relating to the Leeds Girls' High School site in Headingley, which is now vacant following a merger with the Leeds Grammar School and a move to Alwoodley.

The merged school is seeking the planning permission to sell the site to a housing developer and build over a 100 homes.

It wants councillors to give permission to convert and extend the main school building to create 32 apartments and to make four townhouses in the stable block. The development also includes turning Rose Court into 12 apartments, while a 15-apartment block would also be built along with 51 townhouses on the main school site.

Objectors wan to keep the playing fields but the chief planning officer's report says that their loss is acceptable in planning terms because they have been replaced by facilities at Alwoodley.

Residents and objectors have fought a long campaign against the proposals but officers are recommending that councillors back the scheme and defer the granting of permission back to officers subject to a number of conditions being met.

A report to members of Leeds City Council's plans panel west says: "The site is considered suitable for redevelopment for residential purposes given its location in a highly sustainable area of the existing inner suburbs of the city.

"The delivery of family housing and converting and re-using both listed buildings and non-listed buildings which contribute positively to local character and distinctiveness are additional factors in favour of the development."

In October members deferred making a decision after being informed that a member of the public had mounted a legal challenge to stop members making a decision at the meeting.

Members agreed to defer voting on the issue to allow officers more time to investigate the issues raised and officers are now recommending councillors back the plans.

The report says about 1,300 letters have been received by the council covering the five planning applications. Objectors who campaigned for the playing pitches to be retained have argued that the plans will have a negative effect on the conservation area and traffic.

Leeds Civic Trust and The Victorian Society are among the large number of objectors.

The Victorian Society claimed that the plans would lead to the site becoming "over developed", while the Leeds Civic Trust maintains that the project represents over development and it still finds the houses and the gardens being proposed are too small.

The planning report concludes that all five applications are acceptable for approval.

The report to members says: "After careful consideration of the material planning considerations, assessment of the applications in the context of the Development Plan and considering all representations received, on balance approval of all planning applications and associated listed building and conservation area consents is recommended."