Thursday, 6 October 2011

Senior councillors challenge government planning proposals

Government proposals to overhaul planning laws in the UK could lead to increased development on green field sites and the green belt regardless of the wishes of local people according to a Leeds City Council report.

Other concerns raised in the report about the proposals include a potential reduction in the ability of local planning authorities to control development and a failure to recognise the regeneration challenges faced by major cities like Leeds.

The report forms the council’s response to the draft National Planning Policy Framework, which has already come in for serious criticism from a range of organisations including The National Trust.

As a city made up of many different settlements, each with their own distinct character, it is really important that local communities in Leeds have a say in how development takes place. This top-down national framework could undermine the role local people have in the planning system.

At the heart of the government’s proposals is a presumption in favour of sustainable development. It is unclear how this will be defined, making it difficult to demonstrate that planning applications are unacceptable. This, combined with a lack of clarity and consistency throughout the draft framework will make it more difficult to tackle a range of planning issues.

The report also criticises the lack of recognition of the economic regeneration and urban renewal priorities of major cities like Leeds. By relying on “market signals” to determine where development should take place there is a risk that developers prioritise more profitable green field sites over previously developed land and brown field sites.

Under the proposed framework councils will also have to allocate an additional 20 per cent of land towards housing supply than under existing rules. This increase is combined with the refusal to allow “windfall” housing and student housing to count towards new housing quotas.

The report says that if implemented these changes would put the council under increasing pressure to build on green field and green belt sites. It is concerned the overall thrust of the proposals is to support development even if it could affect conservation special landscape areas.

Cllr Richard Lewis, executive board member for development and economy, said:
“As a city we have a clear vision about our future and where future development should happen. There is a real need to build additional housing for the future, but it must be part of the vision we have for our city, our economy, our environment and our communities.

“We have a strong and diverse economy in Leeds and part of our success has been that we have been able to develop that while protecting the city’s heritage and its green spaces. That means having a balanced approach to planning which takes into account economic, social and environmental considerations.

“We want to be able to continue that work in the future. As they stand these proposals will take much of that control away from us and make it harder for us to develop the city in the way we would like.

“If the government is serious about localism it should support local decision making instead of making it harder for local people to have their say.”

Ends

Notes to editors:
1.The new framework has reduced more than 1000 pages of planning guidance to little more than 50 and covers virtually all planning guidance.
2.“Windfall” housing is housing which has not been planned but is built on land which becomes available unexpectedly, such as when a factory closes down.

Light up your Friday Night




Caption: Last year's Light Night included a flash mob performance on Victoria Gardens and 'Gaze' by Andy Wood projected onto the Parkinson Building at the University of Leeds (both images courtesy of Jonathan Turner)

Leeds city centre will have a very different look and feel this Friday evening as the annual Light Night event takes place.

Running from 5-11pm on October 7, the event for people of all ages features more than 70 free performances, displays and light shows in over 40 locations on the streets and in well-known and not-so-well-known venues around the city centre.

The evening will be formally launched at The Carriageworks off Millennium Square at 5:30pm, with brochures available and information on how to make the most of all the entertainment on offer.

Those attending can follow the guide to take in as many of the venues and activities as they choose, with organisers Leeds City Council splitting the evening into four geographical sections with attractions on offer in the academic, civic, retail and south side elements.

Leeds Town Hall will be a focal point for the event, with a sneak preview of this year’s Leeds International Film Festival taking place in the Victoria Hall followed by a showing of silent film classic ‘Nosferatu’ complete with live organ accompaniment by organist Simon Lindley.

Other highlights will include members of Leeds Festival Chorus, who will be appearing in the Victoria Quarter at 6pm, the steps of Leeds City Museum at 7pm and Leeds Town Hall steps at 8pm to perform a selection of hauntingly beautiful music by Anton Bruckner.

Visitors to Leeds City Museum will also get the chance to become heroes by stepping the giant footsteps of the legendary Hercules and completing his 12 labours meeting monsters and costumed characters along the way.

Those attending Light Night will also have the chance to show off their own talents by taking part in the ‘The People’s Exhibition’ by Kirsty Ware which will be on display in the Leeds Arena in Leeds City Museum from 6-10pm. The exhibition showcases the photos members of the public took when asked what their favourite part of Leeds is, and after seeing the results visitors will be able to create their own art to add to the display.

Shakespeare will also be prominent with ‘Othello’ being performed at the University of Leeds and ‘Titania’s Dream’ by Opera North at the Howard Assembly Rooms in Leeds Grand Theatre.

Now in its seventh year, Light Night aims to encourage residents and visitors to see their city and famous buildings from a very different perspective for one night only.

Leeds City Council executive member for leisure Councillor Adam Ogilvie said:

“Another Light Night is here and we are very much looking forward to seeing the amazing things in store for us.

“It was wonderful to see thousands of people of all ages enjoying last year’s event and we hope even more people will come along and take a look on Friday night at the fantastic range of performances and displays on offer.”

The free programmes for this year’s event will be available at venues on the night and can also now be seen at www.lightnightleeds.co.uk, giving details of each activity and a map to show each location.

ENDS

For media enquiries please contact:
Roger Boyde, Senior communications officer,
Leeds City Council, Tel 0113 247 5472
Email: roger.boyde@leeds.gov.uk

Campaign to champion the role of Children’s Social Workers in Yorkshire and the Humber







Issued on behalf of the 15 local authorities across Yorkshire and the Humber

Children’s social workers across the country are handling a record number of cases, with more than 74,000 children in Yorkshire and the Humber alone receiving their vital help and support in the last year.

And now, in a unique two-year campaign, all 15 councils across Yorkshire and the Humber have united to make sure those standards of care will continue to improve for the most vulnerable local children.

Under the banner of “Children’s Social Work Matters”, the campaign aims to attract new social workers to the country’s biggest region and raise industry standards for people already in the job.

It will create new opportunities and tackle misconceptions about the role of a social worker – using real-life stories from members of regional social work teams who dedicate their working lives to child protection.

Alison O’Sullivan, director for children and young people at Kirklees Council who is leading the project, said it was geared towards meeting future challenges and making sure children are always put at the heart of social work.

Alison went on: “It’s important to raise the profile of social work so that people have a deeper understanding of what it’s really like to work with vulnerable children, some of whom are at risk of serious harm. Children’s social workers are passionate about what they do. The job can be intensely challenging and difficult, yet incredibly rewarding – and it makes a real and lasting difference to the lives of young people.

“Across Yorkshire and the Humber, and for a huge variety of reasons, more children than ever need support. The increase is reflected nationally and is due to a growing awareness of child protection issues, especially after the Baby Peter case in London.

“In our region we viewed this as a call to action. Never before have 15 councils joined forces in this way. We want people to have a better understanding of what it’s like to work with vulnerable children and we want to encourage more people to consider it as a career. As the campaign says, Children’s Social Work Matters – and it really does for thousands of families across Yorkshire and the Humber.”

A key element of the campaign is a new website –www.childrenssocialworkmatters.org – which features real life video stories where some of the region’s social workers explain how they manage the challenges and complexities of the job. The website also features children’s social work “champions” – drawn from participating local authorities - who will deal with online questions about their role and what it takes to be a children’s social worker, working with families often living chaotic and distressing lives.

Alison, who has 30 years experience in social work, said the website would be backed by practical measures looking at issues such as training and support for newly qualified graduate social workers.

She said:

“Councils are linking up to learn from each other and to make sure that even in the most challenging of circumstances, social workers have the support they need to transform lives for the better.”

A regional breakdown of the number of children helped by children’s social workers over the last year follows:
• 7,952 in North Yorkshire
• 23,251 in South Yorkshire
• 29,941 in West Yorkshire
• 13,356 in the Humber area

Notes to Editors
1. Yorkshire and the Humber local authorities involved in the Children’s Social Work Matters project are:

West Yorkshire
Bradford
Calderdale
Kirklees
Leeds
Wakefield

North Yorkshire
North Yorkshire
York

South Yorkshire
Doncaster
Barnsley
Rotherham
Sheffield

Humber
Hull
East Riding
North Lincs
North East Lincs

2. A copy of the Children’s Social Work Matters logo is available from COI Yorkshire and the Humber, tel 0113 346 6086/6084

Media enquiries: Contact Sheila Perry t: 0113 346 6086 sheila.perry@coi.gsi.gov.uk or Helen Lister t: 0113 346 6084 helen.lister@coi.gsi.gov.uk