24 Oct 2023
Planning inspector backs council's green belt enforcement action
The disruptive use of a piece of green belt land for unauthorised commercial purposes is set to end thanks to successful planning enforcement action by Leeds City Council.
The land – off the A61 Leeds Road in Lofthouse – has for a number of years been home to businesses including a coach depot, a scaffolders and a stone cutters.
Noise and fumes have been a long-standing issue for residents living in nearby homes, while concerns have also been voiced about the 1.8-hectare site’s impact on the openness of the green belt.
Having established that some of the business activity at the site was taking place without the necessary planning permission, the council issued a series of enforcement notices in October last year that were designed to halt these unauthorised uses.
Appeals against the notices were subsequently lodged by the companies that own the land, Marsh Investments Wakefield Limited and Searchagain Limited.
Now, though, their appeals have been rejected by a government-appointed independent planning inspector following a public inquiry process.
The decision means that the unauthorised uses of the site – including the operations of the coach depot, scaffolders and stone cutters – must cease by April 13 next year. Prosecution through the courts is a potential option if the uses continue.
Various buildings, containers, fencing, waste material and gates must also be removed from the land.
Two businesses – a car wash and a tyre depot – will be allowed to continue operating.
The public inquiry heard evidence from residents and other interested parties, while a site visit was carried out last month.
The rejection of the appeals was confirmed to the council in a letter from the planning inspector on October 13.
In the letter, the inspector writes: “Evidence was presented regarding the effects of the various businesses on the living conditions of the nearby residents – this was in relation to the scaffolding, stone working, and coach hire businesses but not specifically in relation to the tyre business when considered alone.
“There was evidence regarding the unacceptable levels of noise made by the businesses but also evidence in relation to the fumes, and the visual impact on the character and appearance of the area caused by the proximity of the unauthorised developments.”
The letter adds that operations at the site have been causing “visual and spatial harm” to the openness of the green belt.
Councillor Helen Hayden, Leeds City Council’s executive member for sustainable development and infrastructure, said:
“The council takes its responsibilities as a planning authority extremely seriously, with every effort being made to swiftly and effectively investigate potential regulation breaches.
“The issuing of these enforcement notices was a proportionate and expedient measure, and one that was only set in motion after our previous attempts to negotiate a solution to the problems at the site proved unsuccessful.
“Enforcement is often complex and long work. I’m pleased we have enforcement officers in Leeds working diligently on cases like this and I would like to thank them for their work here and across the city.
“We are pleased that the notices have now been upheld by the planning inspector in a decision that will provide some welcome certainty for local residents.”
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Leeds City Council Communications team