Controversial Village Hall Car Park plan withdrawn

Updated 3 July 18

Plans to build a second larger car park behind the village hall have been dropped after pressure from villagers and the Parish Council.

Over eighty objections were posted on the Leeds City Council planning portal alongside six ‘support comments’ placed by Village Hall trustees. The original plan stated a tarmac surface but Village Hall Chairman Peter Guilford said this had been a mistake by the architect concerned and the application was revised in favour of a grass or artificial surface. This did little to allay the fears of objectors, many of whom mentioned a total objection to any second car park – irrespective of surface – on what is perceived to be a valuable piece of green grassed land enjoyed by wedding guests, event guests and weekly groups such as mothers and toddlers.

As pressure mounted, Peter Guilford hosted an impromptu meeting with immediate neighbours of the village hall. In their written submissions on the Leeds planning portal supporting the application, trustees had written comments such as ‘On limited occasions the current car park proves to be inadequate. For the convenience of those using the hall, and to limit inconvenience to those living close by, the hall management plans to use part of the field in front of the hall for controlled overspill parking. I understand some hard standing will be needed to support vehicles but the surface will be grassed over’, ‘it is to be used as an occasional overflow car park for large events to prevent disruption that might be caused to local residents’. A third trustee wrote ‘I am sure nearby residents will agree’.

But nearby residents disagreed. Many residents of School Lane were amongst the eighty objections, citing concerns about additional traffic, noise, safety and the detrimental effect a second car park might have on the appeal of the very building it was to serve. Many said they had not been consulted. At the impromptu meeting mentioned earlier, Peter Guilford suggested he might agree to drop the plan if it were proved that the majority of School Lane neighbours -together with immediate neighbours from The Paddock- were against. Gemma Plowright organised a petition which was shown at the Parish Council meeting on Tuesday. Parish Councillors were unanimous in their opposition to the plan, whether it used tarmac or other materials. Ward councillors were similarly concerned and ordered the extension of the planning application deadline and prepared to write to every home in the village. Parish Council Chairman Andrew Batty said that in all his years on the Parish Council, he couldn’t think of another planning application which had even got close to a quarter of the objections this one had.

Following the withdrawal, the Village Hall Trustees circulated a statement to objectors. It said planning permission for car parking at the back of the village hall was approved by the Parish Council in 2008. However that was in connection with 2007 Village Hall improvements and referred to occasional use without hard standing. The statement went on to suggest that in the case of the recent application the Parish Council didn’t approach the Village Hall Trustees to discuss the issue or raise concerns. The way that planning is handled by councils is different. Leeds City Council refers all planning applications in East Keswick to the Parish Council. The Parish Council then gives its comments, support or objection directly to Leeds and not to the applicant. The Parish Council has no representation on the Village Hall Committee or its Trustees.