Tag Archives: Leeds City Council

Council warned over casino plans.

Rank's Grosvenor division already has 35 casinos but hopes to extend this by adding a large casino in Leeds aswell as the 24 outlets owned by debt-laden rival Gala Coral. Photo:©knowyourleeds

As expectation grows that Leeds will be the only major city to grant a large casino licence after a series of council meetings, Citizen’s Advice Bureau and the NHS has warned the council about putting economical gain above resident’s welfare.

Leeds City Council said casinos will bring a “major boost to the leisure, visitor and night-time economies” after the licensing policy was passed through the Executive Board and Scrutiny process.

Large casinos are defined as having a minimum area of 1,000 square meters and up to 150 slot machines with a maximum jackpot of £4,000.

CAB’s response to the licensing consultation said “problem gambling” is highest where casinos are generally built in areas of high deprivation and unemployed with severe money problems.

They highlighted that 16-24 year-olds and people with serious health problems are most at risk. Referring to this government report in 2010, they said: “0.9% of the population in Britain can be defined as problem gamblers, suggesting that in Leeds there may be around 7,000 people who are already problem gamblers.

“If the development of a large casino in Leeds results in an increase in problem gambling of only 0.1% that would mean an additional 800 people becoming problem gamblers with the likely corresponding money problems described above.”

A spokesman for LCC working on the project said in a “post recession environment” casinos could prove a key catalyst in stimulating economic growth.

“Early economic impact assessments estimated that a large casino in Leeds could generate up to 620 new jobs and potential capital expenditure of £25million,” said the spokesperson in a written response to questions knowyourleeds had to send in writing.

“We don’t wish to speculate as to how many applications it may receive, other than to state that, as Leeds is the only core city with powers to grant a licence, it’s anticipating interest from the casino industry.”

Rank Group PLC unsuccessfully challenged the councils right not to award a casino licence if they receive more than more than one application which falls short of their set criteria. Rank – who confirmed today that they’re in talks about taking over Gala Coral –  run 37 casinos across the UK (included 2 casinos in Belgium), generating £238.6m in revenue, under the Grosvenor brand.

Nationwide ‘large casinos’ was given the go-ahead in 2007 in controversial decision by the then Labour government.

The council receives £15,000 a year in fees from the five casino licences in operation across the city. Large licences are worth £10,000 a year for each awarded.

NHS Leeds said the policy doesn’t acknowledge potential negative impacts which a large casino could have. In their response to the consultation, they said:

“People living in areas of deprivation are disproportionately affected by higher levels of income deprivation, employment deprivation, higher rates of ill-health and disability, lower rates of education, skills and training, lack of social housing, high levels of crime and poor living environments.

“Individuals living in areas of deprivation are at much greater risk of negative impacts associated with gambling. Low income is one of the most consistent factors associated with problem gambling worldwide.”

When asked how much the council has spent on the application process, they were unable to provide figures due to “commercially sensitivity”.

“Moneys spent as part of  the process are expected to be significantly outweighed by the financial contributions which may be received,” LCC said.

You can see the responses in the post-consultation report below.

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Councillors hear out plans for incinerator.

In a packed planning meeting, only a handful of councillors directly queired the 25 year incinerator contract. Photo:©knowyourleeds

At the Plans Panel East meeting earlier today, the general message was clear to Veolia.

Under light interrogation, the executives who delivered Veolia’s hour long pre-application planning presentation was told that councillors needed more clarity about the dynamics of the site and the impact of the 75ft chimney to the surrounding area.

“I asked a simple question and they haven’t been able to answer it,” said Coun Michael Lyons (Lab, Temple Newsam). He was adamant throughout the meeting that someone should answer his question.

He wanted someone to explain how the outsourcing of burning household waste on a 25 year contract worth £550m would be cheaper than using a nearby incinerator site run by Biffa.

The site will be 3.3 hectares and 300 metres from the nearest house. Photo:©knowyourleeds

When the environmental impact assessment comes out in April, Veolia will formalise its proposal to take over the former car-boot sale site in Cross Green Market.

Once they’ve submitted their planning permission application, the Plan Panel will decide whether to press ahead. The panel acknowledged they’ll probably extend the usual 16 week turnaround period to come to a conclusion though it looks likely to be passed.

Then the public will have 21 days to have their say before construction begins early next year.

Veolia said 300 jobs would be created for the construction of the 3.3 hectare site. And they’ll need 45 permanent staff when the plant goes into its 24-hour a day operation.

Up to 70 of Veolia’s own dump trucks will bring waste in and out of the plant everyday – the council has around half that many trucks collecting waste – which will pick up the household rubbish we produce directly from bins rather than a central location.

The incinerator will have greenery, cycle routes and a small car-park around the main facility. Veolia’s excutives also talked about a ‘green living wall’ which will have flowers and trees on the side of the buidling. But local residents won’t be able to see it as it only faces the main road, not the houses.

“Can we actually see the photos from the perspective of where the nearest houses will see it?” said Coun Peter Gruen (Lab, Cross Gates and Whinmoor). The nearest home is 300 meters away from the north side of the proposed incinerator.

Coun Ralph Pryke (Lib Dem, Burmantofts and Richmond Hill), voted for the incinerator when the council was in a Lib Dem – Conservative coalition. But he had evidently done his homework asking considered questions.

“In all the documentation I have seen,” said Coun Pryke, “I’ve not seen anything about any payment for the site. Is Veolia paying rent to LCC for use of this site, or are you buying it from the council, or is it in effect free land and that’s why you’ve chosen to build your facility here?”

Veolia said they'll be no smell and minimal amount of chemicals released into the atmosphere as everything is treated in-house. Photo:©knowyourleeds/veolia

John O’Sullivan, Project Director at Veolia said: “Because the facility is essentially paid for by the council, in discussion with the council’s procurement process, it seemed circular, shall we say, for us to pay for the site that in the end we would have to recover that money back from the council.”

Veolia have consistently pointed out that 200,000 tonnes of black-bin waste in Leeds currently goes to landfill and is financially and environmentally unsustainable.

Councillors now have to weigh up how this controversial plant affects residents against the commercial imperatives of burning waste.

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Plans panel to discuss incinerator.

Meeting on Thursday will discuss the report of the Chief Planning Officer and provide details and proposals for the controversial incinerator at Cross Green Market.

Veolia presents its pre-application to the Leeds East Panel on Thursday at 1pm at Civic Hall.

As previously reported on knowyourleeds, the meeting will discuss the proposed incinerator in Cross Green Market. The incinerator – 300 meters from housing – will burn around 150,000 tonnes of Leeds’ black bin rubbish a year and 30,000 tonnes of commercial waste.

Due to its complications and considerable public objections, although the majority of planning decisions are the decided by a solitary senior member, the controversial plans will be decided by all of the council’s 11 Plans Panel (East) members.

No formal decision on the development is due to be made on Thursday, but panel members can ask questions, raise issues, seek clarification and comment on the proposals. Judging by their remarks previously, it should be interesting.

Members of the East Plans Panel are:

You can see the pre-application report of the meeting below:

LCC have said there is no opportunity for public speaking about the proposals outlined in the presentation. However, there are rules to panel meetings which you may want to take note of for future meetings.

All of the following information can be found on their website.

What happens in a panel meeting?

When the application is ready to be considered by the plans panel, if you have commented on the planning application you are informed by letter or email of your right to speak.  An officer will prepare a written report and an officer recommendation (normally for approval with planning conditions, or a refusal with reasons) for each application.

Who can speak?

One objector (or spokesperson for a group of objectors) may speak against the application and one person (usually the applicant or their agent) may speak in reply in support of the application. Each will be allowed three minutes.  Anyone wishing to speak must notify the council of their wish to do at least two clear days prior to the date of the plans panel.

The chair of the panel decides who will speak and allocates an equal time for all parties.

Members of the panel may ask questions and seek clarification of the speakers on any points arising from their presentations.

Once this has been completed the objector/supporter will take no further part in the debate.

Who will be there?

In addition to the members listed above, the council’s legal representative, planning officers and a highway’s officer are also present. Not forgetting the press and Veolia executives.

Opportunity to speak

On arriving the porter will direct you to the room where you register with a member of staff.

It is important to be aware that this is a meeting to which the public are invited. However – unlike a public meeting – dialogue between public speakers and the plans panel members is limited to answering questions asked by the panel.

As the incinerator isn’t the only item they’ll discuss, when this application – or any others for that matter which you’ve commented on – is reached, the planning officer will explain the proposal and plans.

The objector will be asked to speak first by coming forward to the table with a microphone so everyone can hear. The applicant/agent will speak after this.

Conditions of speech

You will only be allowed to speak for three minutes. Prepare for this. Someone else can speak for you if you wish but you they may dismiss you if you stray from the ‘planning matters’ of the case and emphasize or expand the information you have already submitted.

Decisions

As this is a pre-application process these rules won’t apply, but generally the plans panel discusses the application until they reach a decision which are set out in the official minutes of the Panel meeting (published after the meeting).

In some cases the panel will decide to defer a decision until further information is obtained.  Some applications may also be deferred for a ‘site visit’ to allow panel members to visit the site.

All applicants have the right to appeal to the Secretary of State, Teresa May (Cons), if the application is refused or conditions are attached which they think are unreasonable. Third parties have no right of appeal.

Keep an eye on www.leeds.gov.uk/publicaccess to find out about the decision and knowyourleeds.

Will you be going and what do you want answered? Leave a comment and let me know.

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Public reaction to Kirkgate Market report.

Reports suggests £30m investment in the market would be needed. Photo: ©knowyourleeds

There’s been some reaction to the report into Kirkgate Market which knowyourleeds reported on Saturday. You can read what traders and members of the public here in the YEP who have details of the proposed changes, including  a tenant reselection process and knocking down two buildings.

Friends of Leeds Kirkgate Market  have covered it too. They’ve got contacted local councillors who have cross party support in concerns about the report. Perhaps indicative of what community activism can do, councillor Ralph Pryke (Burmantofts and Richmond Hill) said that he and other councillors had received a number of e-mails ahead of the meeting while the traders also attended the meeting, has both testified to the level of public interest in the marker proposals.

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Final say on Leeds Incinerator?

Veolia will enter a 25 year contract next month to dispose of household waste. Photo©knowyourleeds

Veolia looks set to enter into a 25 year contract with Leeds City Council next month to burn Leeds’ household waste. With a £68.6 million Private Finance Initiative buffer, its estimated value is £550 million.

The proposal for the incinerator based at the old car boot sale site in Cross Green Market wasn’t the biggest. But the capacity to burn 180,000 tonnes-a-year meets the council’s requirements.

As head of east Leeds community activist group COVEN, Sarah Covell is angry that councillors and Veolia haven’t done enough to address the resident’s concerns over the plans.

“They’re saying it’s a landmark building. It is. I doubt don’t that for a second. It’s a very beautiful building. It’s just in the wrong place with the wrong things inside it.”

Artist impression of new multi-million pound incinerator

She’s dismayed that a lack of political pluckiness can dismiss widespread concerns, even when something is opposed so openly.

A group of Labour councillors walked out of a vote last November which recommended the incinerator.

“It’s called predetermination,” said one of the absentees, Coun Ron Grahame (Lab, Burmantofts and Richmond Hill). “Predetermination just takes me out of reckoning altogether.

“I’m not allowed to predetermine the situation for the incinerator prior to it coming to the East Leeds plan meeting. That’s why I walked out. I didn’t give in to myself whatsoever.”

It also took Labour councillors: Mick Lyons (Temple Newsam), Katherine Mitchell (Temple Newsam) and Asghar Khan (Burmantofts and Richmond Hill) out of the reckoning.

According to the YEP, landfill taxes would cost the council £16m a year by 2013. “If we don’t deliver on the timescale mapped out we will put this council is financial jeopardy,” said Coun Mark Dobson (Lab: Garforth and Swillington), the council’s executive member for environmental services, reported the YEP.

“It’s definitely in the wrong site. It should have gone to the Aire Valley where it belongs,” said coun Grahame to knowyourleeds.

Councillors across the political spectrum have expressed concerns over incinerator plans. Coun David Blackburn (Greens, Farnley and Wortley) said at the time: “To go for incineration is the worst decision the council has made for years.”

While Coun Stewart Golton (Lib Dem, Rothwell) blogged: “Since taking power 18 months ago, the Labour Party have been very quiet on their waste policy. I assumed they were working hard on an alternative. Imagine my surprise that their alternative to an incinerator is…an incinerator!”

The proposed facility will create up to 300 jobs during the three-year construction period say Veolia and 45 permanent jobs.

“It’s not local people from East End Park who get the jobs. It’s not just we don’t want this in our ward. We want them [LCC] to look at other methods of residual waste disposal,” said Sarah Covell.

Critics say more recycling options needs to be evaluated. Photo©knowyourleeds

“Somethings gone wrong somewhere,” said Coun Grahame, “the incinerator itself is totally in the wrong place. When they tell you there’s 200 other sites to look at, you look at 200 sites and you think, well it comes down to an old car boot sale site (Cross Green Market) then there’s something not really right.”

Despite these criticisms, Veolia looks set to win the battle. But that’s old news.

The proposals for the incinerator began in 2006 but this week the proposal are open to public scrutiny for the last time.

First stop: Richmond Hill on Thursday, next St Philip’s Church on Friday before finished at 8.30pm, Saturday at Halton Moor Community Centre.

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Kirkgate Market

The market is likely to see a quarter of it's layout changed. Photo©knowyourleeds

A report yesterday to council bosses made grim reading for supporters of Kirkgate Market. The 180 year-old market needs to lose 25% of its trading space the report by Quarterbridge Project Management said.

Commissioned by Leeds City Council, the report recommends parts of the market be reconfigured and redeveloped. It also said the market could be co-run by the council and/or private sector investors.

LeedsMarket.co.uk has blogged on it, and wrote a summary of the main points:

  • Reconfiguring the overall space available to provide a 25% reduction in trade space. The overall site would remain the same size but space would be reconfigured to create a better flow for customers; better quality trading environments for traders; a balcony area could be utilised to create a food-court area to enhance the social experience in the market hall; a basement level could be added to improve servicing routes for traders.
  • The view from the private sector is that sole ownership would be preferred. However, it is unlikely that Leeds City Council would agree to sell the markets in its entirety.
  • The costs associated with the above suggestions are significant and in the consultants view it is also unlikely that Leeds City Council could undertake these changes without private sector support. With this in mind the report also recommend that the markets become a Limited Liability Partnership. This effectively makes Leeds Markets a jointly owned company between Leeds City Council and either a sole or a number of private sector investors. The report suggests that Leeds City Council should maintain a 25% share based on the amount of financial capital realistically available.
  • Should a Limited Liability Partnership be created, the new board of shareholders may seek to appoint a private sector management company to oversee day-to-day management of the markets and its future development.

The 70 page report can be found here: http://goo.gl/yuQYw

At lunch time yesterday, knowyourleeds took a walk round the market to see how the lunch time trade was doing.

You can see some badly taken photos on the below flickr stream.

We all have busy lives and for many in the city, a for some, a Friday lunch may represent the only time available to stock up on weekend essentials. Buying fresh, locally produce fruits, veg and meat while eating some chips sounds a lot more fun than queuing at the tills on a Sunday afternoon.

But with Tesco announcing a profit loss of £5bn this week, it’s clear that shopping habits have changed dramatically.

Even at lunch, many stalls at the Market were shut, adding to the distinct air of desperation around the place.

What the market does offer is abundance. Cheap fresh produce almost straight from the source. Thirty satsumas were selling for a pound. Five lemons: 50p. A bag of tomatoes (red and huge): £1. A massive sack of toilet roll: £2. You wouldn’t find those prices at any supermarket.

This isn’t squarely – for once – a council problem, nor is it the traders fault. Times change. Things have to adapt.

The proposals will be considered by the council’s Executive Board in February who will have to decide whether to act or not on the recommend that the market’s size be reduced by 25% to 52,000 sq ft (4,831 sq m) and redevelop the rear extensions of the market to modernise it.

Hopefully something good will come out of this. Leeds had two huge Universities right on its doorstep. And surely some initiative which encourages wannabe entrepreneurs could can add some vibrancy and live into it.

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Fight for Bramley Baths.

The temperature board at Bramley Baths. The decision on if the baths will be passed over to a local community group is due soon. Photo:©knowyourleeds

Whether it’s the local library, the disused cemetery or a decaying pub dating back hundreds of years, local institutions can bring a community together and provide services which we all take for granted.

Bramley Baths is one of them. It’s one of just six Victorian Bath Houses remaining in the country and has survived two world wars, the 1930s depression and countless recessions.

However, this economic downturn may prove to be its downfall.

If local community committee cannot find the cash to keep the public baths and swimming pool afloat by March next year, the Labour dominated council will have to close it.

Leeds’ only female MP, Rachel Reeves, is an emerging force in Westminster. The former economist donned her swimsuit in a campaign to save it earlier this year and has spearheaded a sophisticated campaign to save it.

“It doesn’t make money and as a result it’s on the list for cuts as the Council try and balance its budget,” said Rachel Reeves in an interview with knowyourleeds.

“But I’m not satisfied with that solution. I’m not satisfied because it will mean that it won’t be open for school swimming and it won’t be open in the daytime for older people.”

Local Government funding from the Downing Street is being drastically cut in Leeds. The grant to the council’s budget has been cut by 27% over the next four years. That’s £90 million off the budget this year alone.

Critics however would point to the council’s overspend during the ‘boom years’.

Plaque from 1904 shows a list of committee members. Photo:©knowyourleeds

Also, the reduction in opening hours was originally voted for by Labour councillors at the time. When asked about the irony of a Labour MP fighting against Labour council cuts, she said the council have had little choice.

“The people in Leeds didn’t vote for those cuts. The councillors didn’t vote for those cuts. But we’re the ones who have to bear the brunt of them. I would prefer Leeds City Council to continue funding Bramley Baths but we know that’s not realistic,” she said.

Appointed to the shadow chief secretary to the Treasury after just a year as an MP, she believes that the solution to save it is a community asset transfer.

This means the council would still own the building but the day-to-day running of the baths would be handed over to a community group.

The proposal for that will be vetted by the council early next year. And they have to prove that their plan is viable – self-funded – and can keep the 107 year-old building open.

“We’re not willing just to sit back and let the baths wither on the vine, that’s why we’ve taken action. There’s such a buy-in from the local community, particularly from schools who use it for school swimming, that we can make it work,” she said.

As reported in the Guardian Leeds, although similar handover schemes have failed in Garforth and Beeston, successes further afield in Sheffield, Nottingham and South London have convinced some it can work.

The active backing of a determined local MP, who has considerable weight in Parliament, has helped the cause to save it with much needed publicity. But the real challenge will be to develop Bramley Baths into real workable community space which doesn’t need state support.


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Bramley Baths

Bramley Baths

The campaign to save Bramley Baths from closure hasn’t stopped going and has been in the news again this week.

Knowyourleeds managed to nab an exclusive interview with Leeds West MP, Rachel Reeves. She spoke at length about her hopes for the baths and how her constituents planned to keep it afloat despite crippling council budget cuts across Leeds.

Check on this site later this week for a report on what she had to say about Bramley Baths.

We’ll also have a sobering report about Leeds’ youth unemployment as figures for those out of work nationwide soared this week.

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