Councillors back nursery expansion in North Leeds

Controversial plans to expand a nursery in north Leeds have been accepted in principle by a panel of decision-makers at a meeting today.

Leeds City Council’s north and east plans panel had been expected to turn down plans to expand the Montessori School and Day Nursery, following council officer recommendations and local residents complained they were “under siege” by traffic problems.

The decision was made at a meeting in Leeds Civic Hall.

The decision was made at a meeting in Leeds Civic Hall.

But members of the committee decided that the need for extra pre-school places in Leeds outweighed any concerns increased traffic would bring.

Proposals to build a new teaching block at the pre-school in Wetherby Road, Roundhay, would expand capacity from 79 to 99 places.

But a document from council officers stated such a move would increase the numbers of children attending the nursery which, when added to the number of cars picking up and dropping off pupils from a nearby primary school, would lead to unreasonable levels of traffic in the area.

Objecting to the plans, a Mr Ferney, who lives close to the school, told the meeting: “The traffic is horrendous five days a week. The abuse from drivers when asked to move is appalling.

“While it is foolish to resist, change is not always entirely positive. Traffic has increased, as has the volume of waste and maintenance.

“Our experience as a community has been transformed to the point where we feel subsumed by the nursery and the traffic problems in its wake.

“People who reside here often feel overwhelmed and under siege.”

Anooj Kotecha, owner of the pre-school, told the meeting he appreciated the frustrations residents may have, but believed there was an urgent need for an increase in places.

He added: “We provide a valuable service to working families in the local area.

“There is a huge shortage of nursery childcare in the area. The 30-hours entitlement was introduced two years ago. It is a huge benefit, but there aren’t enough places.

“Our pre-school is full until September 2020, we just don’t have the space. Mums tell us that they can’t find childcare in the area – I just have to tell them I’m sorry and that we don’t have places.

“The parking issue is fairly complex – it is about understanding the peak pick up and drop-off times.

“In terms of the weight of number of parents in the vicinity, it is primarily the parents of the children at the school.”

Councillors were then invited to comment on the application.

Coun Mark Dobson (Ind, Garforth and Swillington): “I have a great deal of sympathy with the applicant, and I completely understand where he’s coming from.

“Any members with wards with school traffic build up may have had experience hearing ‘I’ll only be 20 minutes’, ‘F-off’, and other things.”

“I am going to agree with highways.”

Coun Salma Arif (Lab, Gipton and Harehills) : “I think the benefit is to have the additional 20 spaces. The nursery isn’t going to make things considerably worse, and I won’t be supporting the recommendation.”

Coun Paul Wadsworth (Con, Guiseley and Rawdon) also did not support the recommendations to turn down the application, adding: “This is about parental behaviour – people tend to grow horns when they’re picking pupils up.”

Coun Elizabeth Nash (Lab, Hunslet and Riverside) said: “This is the most difficult planning application I’ve ever had to hear. Reluctantly I do have to go with the officer recommendation.”

Councillors then had a majority vote to defer and delegate the decision to officers. This means the plans are accepted in principle, but council officers are required to work with the applicant to solve any remaining issues.