Controversial Ice Pak planning inquiry to start

It’s four years since Beeston-based charity Aspiring Communities first floated its plans to convert the former Ice Pak factory on Barkly Road.

This week an independent Planning Inspector will hold a four day public inquiry into their controversial planning application. Hearings will be held at Leeds Civic Hall running from Tuesday 28 to Friday 31 March 2017.

The charity state their application is for a sports hall, to be used by the local community, together with a prayer room, classroom and office.

But opponents Save Our Beeston claim the building will host international meetings and have dubbed it a multi-storey car park. The plans are also opposed by Beeston Community Forum, Beeston & Holbeck ward Councillors and Hilary Benn MP. A key concern for opponents is the extra traffic the centre will generate. The site is in a largely residential area and close to St Anthony’s primary school.

Aspiring Communities argue that community facilities need to within the community and that they increased the number of car parking spaces in response to feedback on their original plans.

The inquiry will focus on the merits of the planning application and not the dispute between Aspiring Communities and Leeds City Council about the way the application was handled.

The Inspector will make a decision on the application which is binding on both sides, although the decision will not be made public until up to seven weeks after the hearing.

South Leeds Life will be publishing reports each day from the inquiry.

THE ICE PAK TIMELINE

January 2013: Aspiring Communities present their proposals to Beeston Community Forum.

June 2013: Aspiring Communities make a Pre-Application presentation to the South & West Plans Panel. Beeston Community Forum also address the panel setting out their objections.

December 2013: Aspiring Communities submit their first full planning application.

March 2013: In the light of significant opposition from local residents, Aspiring Communities withdraw their application in order to scale down the size of the development.

September 2014: Aspiring Communities present new plans for the site for public consultation. The plans no longer include a large meeting hall, catering and funeral facilities and no longer use the rear entrance and have increased parking spaces.
A public consultation meeting attracted 150 people.

October 2014: Aspiring Communities submit their second (revised) planning application. 80 individual objections are submitted plus a petition of 2,610 names.

August 2015: The South & West Plans Panel is due to decide on the application, but planning officers withdraw the item from the meeting’s agenda.

November 2015: Aspiring Communities lodge an appeal with the Planning Inspectorate for “non determination” (ie that Leeds City Council haven’t made a decision on the application within a reasonable timeframe).

February 2016: The South & West Plans Panel decides that Council should inform the Inspector that officers do not have enough information from the applicants to be able to make a decision.

September 2016: The Planning Inspectorate announce that the case will be decided at a four day public enquiry starting on 28 March

 

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Posted in: Beeston

About the Author:

I've lived in Beeston in South Leeds since 1984 and I love the area. I am involved in various community activities including Beeston Festival. I have been involved with the South Leeds Life Group since it started in 2010.

7 Comments on "Controversial Ice Pak planning inquiry to start"

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  1. RichB says:

    Hi Jeremy. From the Aspiring Communities website I notice that you, Ed Carlise, Martin Flynn and Rev Pearson are still named as remaining members of the Aspiring Communities “steering group”.

    From the website http://www.aspiringcommunities.org/vision-and-objectives/

    “the main purposes of this group is to support us with local initiatives we want to achieve reflecting the local community needs. We will all endeavour to meet regularly in order to discuss and achieve our objectives.”

    Does this group actually meet? If it does, what support does it actually give Aspiring Communities to achieve their objectives (whatever they are..)?

    Please don’t think this as a personal dig, but there has always been the strong suspicion that the motivation behind the steering group was to give Aspiring Communities a level of acceptability and validation through “signing up” a number of known community figures. Not to actually provide direction to the organisation in any way..

  2. Jeremy Morton says:

    Thanks for your question Rich. This is the statement we have submitted to the Inquiry:

    We are writing as members of the Aspiring Communities advisory group*, which is made up of local people who are themselves independent of Aspiring Communities. We were invited to form as a group at the request of Aspiring Communities in late 2013 (before the controversies emerged around the planning application), and have been meeting with them ever since then – on a roughly quarterly basis.

    We are all members of the group in a personal capacity – although each have links with a range of local community groups including churches, youth groups, a community newspaper, the annual community festival, schools (as governors etc), and more.

    At the request of Aspiring Communities, we have sought to act as a sounding board for them as they become established in the area, and to enable them to form links with like-minded groups and organisations. For example, we helped them to develop links with Hunslet RLFC, with whom they then co-delivered a programme of sports activities in Cross Flatts Park during school holidays. We also supported them to link with Cross Flatts parkrun, with whom they did a joint litter-pick. And we’ve generally found them very willing to volunteer on a range of projects locally – indeed, this was what first brought them to our attention (them turning up at events to help out). Notably, this willingness to help out predates their planning application and the recent crisis that’s emerged around it; we feel that it wasn’t simply a cynical ploy to win favours, but an honest commitment to the local area.

    We feel that their proposed scheme has real potential to offer something positive to the local neighbourhood. Whilst there are already a range of community building in the area, we feel a good-quality sports hall would be a real asset. Since South Leeds Sports Centre was shut by Leeds City Council in 2010, the nearest facilities are at the John Charles Centre for Sport (JCCS). Whilst JCCS is physically close to Beeston, it is in an isolated location with no regular public transport link. And as a facility that caters for elite athletes, it can be intimidating to those new to physical activity. Furthermore sport is of course a great way to bring together different people.

    Indeed, we do believe that Aspiring Communities do genuinely aspire to: (a) play a positive role in creating opportunities for the diverse community to connect and collaborate, and (b) using the proposed facilities to serve that purpose. We have previously discussed with them the importance of adopting an open-handed approach to the management the proposed development, if it comes off; specifically, we’d want to see protocols in place before the proposed building is created, that ensure that the building is made available to the wider community. For example: a given number of free gym memberships for local people on low incomes, arrangements for local groups/schools/etc to use the facilities free or at-cost for a given number of hours per month, and so on.

    Finally, we of course appreciate that this planning proposal has regrettably generated considerable resistance, and we do understand some of the misgivings of local people. As we say above, we do feel that the aspirations of the Aspiring Communities team are honourable – but we also sense that they’ve made some errors, and missed some opportunities, over the past 3-4 years. They failed to conduct as much local consultation as they might have done, underestimated the growing concerns about their proposed development, and have – over the past couple of years – found themselves unable to get off the back-foot, and unable to forge the local links that might have enabled them to develop this project in a genuinely collaborative manner.

    We welcome this independent review, hope that it think possibly enable some of the misunderstandings and misgivings on both sides to be addressed, and create a positive way forward for the scheme.

    Yours,
    Ed Carlisle, Jeremy Morton, and Lindsey Pearson
    on behalf of the Aspiring Communities advisory group

    *We are sometimes referred to as a ‘steering group’, but feel that ‘advisory group’ is more apt.

    • RichB says:

      Thanks for sharing this Jeremy.
      I think the statement you, Ed and the Rev Pearson make demonstrates the real bone of contention for the development.
      You highlight and focus on the sports facilities that are proposed along with the benefits they could potentially bring to the community. Whilst the majority of local people see the sports proposals as a distraction from the real purpose of the development. That is, the creation of a significantly sized place of worship, designed to attract people from outside the area into a predominately residential space – with all the problems that go with that.

  3. Robert ashworth says:

    whatever peoples thoughts on Ice Pak development are,what concerns me is that the Aspiring Communities board of directors consists of people with a Asian ethnic background who when trying to contact any of these people on their website.a shutter stops any attempt to converse.If as they say they wish to integrate with Beeston Village residents,should they not have a local resident on their board to oversee that things are running smoothly.Or as majority of residents feel,have they got diverse interests which they wish to hide.Given their poor attendance (12 out of 52)at meetings with Beeston Forum & decline to attend Save our Beeston meeting,one can only assume that no good is coming from this group.I’m afraid I see nothing but tension & resentment if this project goes ahead.If we had a large Islamic population in this area ,I could reluctantly see the need for it, but to instigate something & trying to drum support from Muslims all over the country smacks of self righteous egotism.On Aspiring Communities website,all the directors are claiming British nationality.Perhaps their conduct through this affair is not quite the British way.

  4. Charles McGrath says:

    I live locally and anxious to know if the Planning
    Committee have already made their decision due to be
    announced by Mid May. It is not clear how they will
    make their announcements by media etc.

    Concerned Beeston resident

    Charles

    • Jeremy Morton says:

      Hi Chareles,

      The decision is out of the Council’s hands now. The (Government appointed) Planning Inspector will publish his decision anytime now.

      We will bring you that decision as soon as we know it.

      • Charles McGrath says:

        Thanks Jeremy

        The sooner the decision is made the better
        so that the former building will be demolished
        You will appreciate the fact that I am a
        pensioner who uses Barkly Road daily. The
        last thing is that there should be a blocking
        due to many people on this road.

        Charles

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