- From the Yorkshire Evening Post, article by Howard Williamson
A plan to turn a Victorian family home into flats - which brought together a whole neighbourhood in opposition - has gone before a two-day public inquiry in Leeds.
The community of Gledhow held three public meetings to oppose the scheme submitted by resident Robert Heaton and they sent in more than 300 objections. Mr Heaton has been refused permission to build eight flats, in two blocks, in the grounds of his home, Gledhow House on Gledhow Lane and is appealing. The property built in 1860, once belonged to John Goodman, brother to Sir George Goodman, a former Lord Mayor and MP of Leeds.
It stands near Gledhow Valley Woods and the area known locally as Little Switzerland. At the opening of the inquiry yesterday, Matthew Copeland, counsel for Mr Heaton, said the scheme has been supported by Leeds City Council planning officer on three occasions. Its aim was to maximise the use of the grounds of Gledhow House and it would enhance the character of the area. No trees of any merit would be lost, he said.
But Miss Sarah Reid, for the city council, said: "It is the council's case that the scheme will lead to the loss of garden area of Gledhow House and a loss of spaciousness both for that building and the area as a whole. The dominance of the blocks of flats will cause harm to the character and appearance of the area."
Adam Ward, principal planning officer for Leeds City Council, said the size and position of the flats and the proposed access road would damage the newly created conservation area. He said he disagreed with the council's own chief planning officer who had favoured the scheme. Mr Copeland asked him: "In line with planning policy, should the use of this brown field site be maximised?" Mr Ward replied: "Yes, but not at the expense of the surrounding area."
In a letter to the inquiry, Fabian Hamilton, MP for Leeds North East, said: "This development would be overbearing for local residents and would affect local wildlife. "I understand there is a colony of protected bats living in Gledhow House. "This development will do nothing to improve the area. In fact, I think it will do the opposite."
Friends of Gledhow Valley Woods said the trees on the site were vital for bird habitats. Species which had disappeared from the area in recent years included the little owl, redstart, spotted flycatcher, marsh tit and lesser whitethroat.
The hearing continues today.
"This development will do nothing to improve the area. In fact it will do the opposite" - Fabian Hamilton MP
"The dominance of the block of flats will cause harm to the character and appearance of the area" - Sarah Reid, counsel for Leeds City Council"
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