Following Leeds City Council’s recent communication that it has paused the East of Otley hybrid planning application in response to the significant number of objections raised to the application, local MP Alex Sobel met with the Planning officers this week to understand the proposed next steps in more detail.
At the meeting, Planning officers were keen to stress that that they have heard the concerns raised by the community across a wide range of areas and that they are committed to giving the plan the time and thought necessary to respond to these. In particular, they made clear that work is needed to revise the Site Master Plan ‘to get this right’ and officers advised that they are keen to maintain a dialogue with local groups as they seek to bring forward a higher quality plan that addresses community concerns about biodiversity, affordability and housing type. Although there is no fixed timescale as yet, it was suggested that a period of ‘meaningful consultation’ could begin this month ahead of the proposed formal, statutory consultation in November 2022 which would effectively restart the planning process with a view to a planning decision in the Spring of 2023. The changes to the timetable have been made possible by a provisional agreement by Homes England to vary timescales for the delivery of the relief road which it is funding beyond the previous March 2023 deadline.
Alex Sobel said, “I am really pleased that the Council is taking onboard the objections that I and others in the community raised about the proposed scheme. This will be a significant development that will have a big impact on our infrastructure, landscape and biodiversity and we need a scheme which fulfils planning requirements and that is reflective of the community’s needs. From my involvement on the parliamentary committee scrutinising the Environment Bill, I know that developments will have to be delivered in a way which helps to reduce and replace any biodiversity loss during the building phase, and crucially also deliver a 10% boost to the area’s biodiversity. It’s good news that Leeds City Council are fully committed to this and that this will be non-negotiable in the East of Otley development. I’ll continue to work with all parties to ensure the new plan delivers the maximum benefit to Otley.”
Richard Davies, Labour’s Town Councillor for Danefield, attended the meeting alongside Alex Sobel. He said, “I was heartened by the way in which Council officers have responded to the community’s concerns and their emphasis on meaningful engagement with the community as the new Master Plan is developed. There is a recognition that the Otley Neighbourhood Plan’s clear policy statement and design principles are central to this and that the issue of bio-diversity net gain cannot be ignored. Planners noted that a balance will need to be struck in the revised proposals, but the scheme that emerges has to be significantly better than that was submitted last year and offer a development that meets the community’s expectations. I hope that the willingness to listen and reflect on feedback shown by the Council is now matched by the developers and that they treat the community with the respect they deserve.”