Desperate plea to save 70 Leeds homes from wrecking ball as families fear they'll be left homeless

By Richard Beecham Local Democracy Reporter

Desperate pleas for Leeds City Council to step in and save dozens of social rent houses in east Leeds are set to be presented to a full council meeting next week.

In a motion, known as a white paper, leader of the Leeds Liberal Democrats group Coun Stewart Golton is set to present a letter from the Save Our Homes LS26 campaign, which has been fighting against the planned redevelopment of a former National Coal Board housing estate in Oulton.

Worcester-based private landlord Pemberstone, which owns the 70 post-war prefabricated housing in Wordsworth Drive and Sugar Hill Close, has permission to rebuild the area, with many residents worried it will leave them with nowhere to live.

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The paper is set to be presented at a full Leeds City Council meeting next week. Councillors will have a chance to vote on whether to support the statement.

It reads: “This council notes and endorses the following resolution to Leeds City Council from the Save Our Homes LS26 Campaign representing the community of the Sugar Hill estate in Oulton:

“‘We the undersigned confirm our support for the SOH LS26 Campaign and recognise that only the City Council can protect this community from the profit-motivated threat of eviction by the current landlord.

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“‘We call upon the Labour Group of the Council to support the immediate initiation of negotiations with the owner for the purpose of buying the houses, backed by the willingness to resort, if necessary, to the exercise of the Council’s powers of compulsory purchase.

“‘Whilst recognising the financial and practical challenges implicit in this course of action, we note that it is entirely consistent with the Council’s established policies, which are fundamental to the ‘Best Council’ strategic plan. We also consider that this step is essential to creating conditions conducive to the development of a partnership approach with other providers, such as housing associations, to secure the retention and refurbishment of these homes and the survival of this community.’

“Council, therefore, calls upon the chief executive to immediately implement the necessary arrangements for such interventions to take place.”

A planning application was submitted to Leeds City Council in 2019 by Pemberstone to demolish and rebuild the 70 homes.

The plans were originally rejected by a Leeds City Council planning committee in October 2019, but were overturned on appeal by a Government planning inspector.

While 11 former miners, on old-style tenancy agreements, must legally be rehoused at Pemberstone’s proposed new development, their neighbours will be forced to leave as they all have shorthold tenancies that require just a month’s notice.

Leeds City Council was criticised earlier this year for agreeing to compulsory purchase housing at Kingsdale Court in Seacroft, but still refusing to buy up the houses in the Sugar Hill estate.

At an executive board meeting in February, Coun Golton said during the meeting: “The issue for me, both as an executive board member and a ward member is that there is not equal access to such proactivity from different communities.

“I refer to the Sugar Hill community which has recently suffered a setback. Their estate of poorly maintained, private rented affordable homes are going to be demolished and redeveloped by a private developer.

“One of their greatest wishes is that the council steps in to take over that process. The council has refused to do so and has said it is not in the council’s gift to do it, then produces a scheme like this which looks very similar to what they wished to have as an outcome.

“The passive response to Sugar Hill and the active response to Kingsdale Court is marked.”

Council deputy leader Debra Coupar (Lab) told Coun Golton that the authority could not interfere with a legal planning process.

She added: “(The planning inspector’s decision) suggested that it wouldn’t be cost-effective to refurbish the houses at Wordsworth Drive and Sugar Hill, which is what the residents have been asking for.

“Myself and officers of the council have all supported the residents in this course through this planning process and we are committed to do that. We are meeting with the residents at their request and we want to gain as much affordable housing on that site as we can.”

Leeds City Council will meet to discuss the motion on Tuesday, September 14.

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