In yet another assault on Hyde Park and Woodhouse, the City Centre plans panel this afternoon gave it’s approval to a planning application from Leeds University to relocate the School of Law to a single site at the junction of Moorland Road and Belle Vue Road. It will mean the demolition of the buildings shown in the photograph, and their replacement with buildings that will be twice their height. Development in a conservation area should enhance the area but the replacement buildings will be large, unattractive, and being on a prominent corner, they will dominate the area. And with their flat roofs, they will stick out like a sore thumb amongst Victorian stone and brick buildings with pitched roofs.
The Law School has an annual intake of 250 undergraduates. In addition it has 150 postgraduates, 40 research students and 65 permanent staff. This means the new building will bring 1,005 new people and their cars into this quiet residential area. And yet amazingly, the proposal will result in ten fewer on site car parking spaces than at present.
Traffic will increase on Belle View Road due to the new car park entrance being relocated to Belle Vue Road. And the new entrance will also mean less street parking for residents. In addition, all the site’s rubbish will be collected from Belle Vue Road rather than from within the site. It’s very wrong that Leeds University and Leeds City Council expect local residents to bear the cost of this development in terms of increased traffic, parking congestion and obstruction.
As with almost every other development that will negatively impact this area, there were no objections to this application from our local councillors. It was left to Councillors Elizabeth Nash, Ted Hanley and Ruth Feldman to speak against it, and they were outvoted.
These are the views of the parties who were present at the multi agency meetings that took place in May, June and July last year.
Councillor Penny Ewens (chair)
“Where are people without gardens to have barbeques if not on the Moor?”
Councillor Jamie Matthews
“The reports of anti social behaviour have been exaggerated. If some people had their way, they’d stop everyone having fun”.
Amanda Jackson (Leeds University)
Concern that the media had exaggerated the scale of the problem.
They say they’ve had instructions not to do anything about barbeques, and that the byelaws have nothing to do with them.
The two student reps
Students not to blame.
About the endless partying on the Moor “It’s wonderful. A real carnival atmosphere.”
And like Parkswatch, the police repeatedly say that the byelaws have nothing to do with them.
With views like these, it’s no wonder that the parties to the multi agency meeting came up with a solution to the problem which by legitimising the existing situation, allows them to continue to shirk their responsiblities. The only reason we have a problem, is because of the refusal by the police and the council to enforce the byelaws. What’s happening on the Moor is not some kind of natural disaster outside their control.
Councillor Ewens said this at the Civic Hall on the 10th May 2007.
Councillor Matthews said this at an INWAC meeting on the 3rd July 2008.
Amanda Jackson is minuted as having expressed this concern at the multi agency meeting on the 16th May 2008.
This was said to one of the Friends by Parkswatch officers on the Moor on the 29th May 2009 when he asked them why they weren’t doing anything to stop illegal barbeques.
The two student reps expressed this sentiment in letters to the YEP published on the 19th May 2008.
The statement about the “wonderful carnival atmosphere” on the Moor was made by a police sergeant at Kendal Carr on the 19th June 2008.
As a result of the barbeque mayhem that began in May last year, instead of enforcing the byelaws, our councillors arranged Multi Agency meetings. These were held on the 16th May, the 18th June, and 17th July 2008. The minutes of these meetings have recently become available and show that they were attended by Councillor Penny Ewens (chair), Councillor Jamie Matthews, representatives from Parks and Countryside, Leeds University, and both student unions. At item 4.7 of the minutes from the 16th May 2008, it states:
“A discussion was had about having a designated barbeque area. It was agreed that an idea such as this would need to be consulted on. Phil Staniforth will look at what options are available and liaise with Area Management”.
And at paragraph 4.1 of the minutes from the 17th July 2009, it states that Leeds University:
“will publicise agreement on by-laws once made”.
What agreement was this ? To change the city’s byelaws ? To get students to vote for designated barbeque areas ? And in exchange for what ?
Points to note :
Even though local residents only found out about the proposal in March 2009, planning for it had been going on for 10 months.
Local residents were not invited to attend these meetings.
Officers from the student unions attended all 3 meetings.
Then in December 2008, with residents still unaware of the barbeque consultation, a student union rep gave the following report to his colleagues on the executive about the DPPO and barbeque consultations:
-Gathering letters to send in for the 2 separate consultations and had a UCR publicity day.
– Support for the barbecue is overwhelming with 50 letters in support and 10 against.
– DPPO is split with about 20 letters each way.
– More letters coming in daily.
The process has clearly included one section of the community (students) and excluded everyone else. The appearance is that our councillors have known what they wanted to do for over a year and have deliberately worked with the one section of the community that they thought would be supportive, and deliberately kept the section that they knew wouldn’t agree with them in the dark until the very last minute.
In January 2007, a deal was signed between Leeds City Council and Leeds University whereby in exchange for receiving £255,697, Leeds City Council agreed to construct two mini soccer pitches and a MUGA (multi use games area) on Woodhouse Moor. The person who engineered this deal was Robert Sladdin, Director of Estates at Leeds University. In addition to getting Leeds City Council to agree to build sports facilities on the Moor, as part of the deal Mr Sladdin got planning permission from the council to build on the former Grammar School Protected Playing Pitch.
Fresh from this triumph, on the 28th February 2008, Mr Sladdin gave a presentation of his University of Leeds Strategic Development Framework to a Leeds City Council planning committee. During the presentation, he revealed that he wants the university to take over the roundabout in front of the Parkinson Building. It seems that the roundabout is owned by Leeds City Council who have not been maintaining it, with the consequence that Leeds University has been obliged to carry out that task. Mr Sladdin said he wants to tarmac over the roundabout so that the area can be used as a dropping off point for coaches, taxis and private cars. He said that this would relieve the current congestion in the area.
For most of my lifetime the roundabout was well-maintained and laid out as a large flowerbed. From Spring to Autumn, it was a riot of colour. I used to admire it every day when I passed it. Ever since the university took it upon itself to maintain the roundabout, it’s been grassed over. The grass has many bare patches because so many people walk across it.
The Parkinson Building is probably the most impressive building in the city after the Town Hall. It was built using money given to the university by businessman and former student Frank Parkinson (1887-1946) That the people in charge of Leeds University should now want to convert the area in front of it into a vehicle dropping off point, raises questions about their fitness to be in charge of such an important part of their own and the city’s architectural heritage.
The likely outcome is that Leeds City Council will hand over yet more of our green space so that the university can tarmac it over. And you can bet that the council will grant planning permission for the project. How could they object ? This guardian of our heritage has itself been using the area in front of the Town Hall as a car park for the past 70 years.
And if Robert Sladdin feels obliged to maintain the roundabout because Leeds City Council won’t do it, I’m surprised he doesn’t feel a similar obligation to maintain Woodhouse Moor, given that it too is immediately adjacent to the university.