Our Forum is an official Leeds City Council consultee for planning applications in Kirkstall Ward. We are notified of all local planning applications, and we can respond to those we chose. In practice we tend to focus on the largest, most complex applications, which affect many local residents.

Currently, the biggest planning applications in Kirkstall are:

FAS2 flood defences18/07367£120 milliondecidedlimited role
FAS2 hybrid application19/00741not knowncurrentmajor role
Artisan housing scheme19/01666£54 millioncurrentmajor role

Leeds City Council maintains multiple websites. The main one is leeds.gov.uk. This has links to two secondary websites: publicaccess.leeds.gov.uk (which deals with planning applications) and democracy.leeds.gov.uk (which deals with committee decisions). You can click the links within this paragraph to go directly to these sites. These websites provide the public records of the Council’s decisions.

The FAS2 scheme is enormous and has already been split into two workstreams. The first is the flood defences proper, with extensive sheet piling and significant habitat destruction. The application number is 18/07367 and it was approved by councillors in May 2019. The plans and drawings will remain on the website indefinitely.

The second FAS2 workstream is the hybrid application 19/00741 for all the bridges, footpath improvements and habitat creation that are supposed to compensate for the environmental damage caused by the flood defences proper. This is a more attractive prospect, but very little of this work is currently funded. It may never be funded, so Kirkstall may have to accept all the noise and damage caused by the flood defences without any mitigation.

The Artisan planning application seeks a major private housing development on the site of the former Kwik Save supermarket on Kirkstall Lane. The application number is 19/01666. Pre-application engagement was very positive, but since August 2019 it has been clear that the plan is in financial difficulties, with the developer unable to provide the public benefits of affordable housing and off-site green space specified in the Leeds Core Strategy.

In August 2019 Artisan submitted an Econmic Viability Assessment (EVA) to the Council who referred it to the District Valuer for critical examination. The District Valuer accepts that the Kirkstall Lane site is steeply sloping and difficult to develop, though not as difficult as Artisan claimed in their EVA. At this point one might expect some robust negotiations between Artisan, KNF and the Council, looking for savings that might allow compliance with Leeds Core Strategy. Unfortunately the District Valuer seems reluctant to share his work: an unforeseen snag which has not yet been resolved.

The Public Access server has details of the all the plans and reports that make up each planning application, and the Council’s response. When using this software, scroll down to the bottom of the first page, type or paste the planning application number into the search box, and then click the blue Search button to locate the data. Click on ‘documents‘ to see all the plans and reports. You can view individual documents by clicking the little icons in the right hand column, or you can tick the left hand checkboxes to download multiple documents in batches up to 25 at a time.

The documents list for the Artisan application includes two copies of the District Valuer’s report with slightly different names. One called ‘ADD . VIABILITY REPORT BY THE DISTRICT VALUER’ was published on 20 Nov 2019, and the second ‘DVS REVIEW OF VIABILITY REPORT’ was published on 20 Dec 2019. They appear to be identical. They have both been redacted and most of the numbers have been blacked out. It is also possible to view the ‘CITY PLANS PANEL COMMITTEE REPORT 21/11/19’ which is an excellent summary of the Artisan proposals, but it doesn’t include the District Valuer’s report.

The Democracy server has details of the City Centre Plans Panel meeting on 21 November 2019. Full navigation instructions are included below, but to save time just click this link: Development at Kirkstall Hill, Leeds 5 – Viability Report which will take you straight there. This time the whole of the District Valuer’s report is provided, completely intact. All the numbers can be read. Check the header to confirm that it forms part of the Council’s Public Document Pack.

It seems that the Council’s left hand doesn’t know what the right hand is doing. Public Access is serving the redacted report, but Democracy provides the Full Monty. Democracy has the correct approach. Government planning guidance requires these documents to be published, and Leeds committee clerks have done exactly what the law requires. These documents have been freely available to the public for over nine weeks, but there are no signs yet of the sky falling in. Please hang on your downloaded copies, just in case somebody wants to put this genie back in the bottle.