Judge declares Leeds Canal-side planning policies ‘unlawful’

By Court reporter Thursday, 26 September 2013

Leeds City Council’s attempts to protect the city’s historic canal-side from housing development have suffered a major setback after a High Court judge declared two council planning policies ‘unlawful’.

The council was sent back to the drawing board when a judge declared unlawful the crucial planning policies designed to maintain land fronting the Aire and Calder canal, at Stourton Point, Haigh Park Road, as wharfage for the use of barges transporting minerals in bulk.

The ruling boosts the hopes of developers, Towngate Estates Limited, who say the use of the site – which includes three historic wharves – for loading and unloading canal boats would be unviable and wants it allocated for housing development.

The future of a site off Bridgewater Road South – currently occupied by a railway line used for importing aggregates from the Yorkshire Dales, a siding used by Tarmac and an asphalt plant – has also been put in doubt by Judge Penelope Belcher’s decision.

At the heart of the case are two policies within the council’s Natural Resources and Waste Local Plan (NRWLP), which it adopted earlier this year after a public inquiry.

The policies, which were set to govern the use of the two sites until 2028, sought to protect the Stourton Point land as “historic wharfage” and the Bridgewater Road South site for development of new railway sidings, or possibly a canal wharf.

Pointing out that the Aire and Calder is one of the few canals able to carry large freight barges, Leeds insisted that its policies were in line with central government objectives to switch from road to rail and canal transport.

In a city as large and complex as Leeds, the council argued it was essential to safeguard existing, planned and potential wharves and railheads suitable for handling the bulk transport of minerals.

The council also pointed out that it had no intention of “indefinitely sterilising” the two sites and, in line with the inspector’s recommendations, had agreed to review the position in five years’ time.

However, in overturning the controversial policies, Judge Belcher ruled that they conflicted with national planning guidance which sought to avoid the long-term safeguarding of rail and canal transport sites where there was no realistic prospect of them being used for that protected purpose.

The inspector had himself recognised that there was little direct evidence to prove that the movement of minerals and other bulky materials to and from Leeds by canal was economically viable and the council’s policies could not be saved by its agreement to a five-year review.

via Judge declares Leeds planning policies ‘unlawful’.

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