Local residents are sceptical about the future of the land along the Hinckley Road side of Western Park. Its sale, and the proposed redevelopment plans of Parmar Properties.
The truth is that the future of this land was all but mapped out by national and local town planning policy many years ago. The buildings have existed since the late 1930’s, and in the context of how land is designated for town planning purposes, the sites are classed as “previously developed land”, or as more commonly described, brownfield land.
The National Planning Policy Framework (2018) defines previously developed land as: “Land which is or was occupied by a permanent structure, including the curtilage of the developed land…”. Previous definitions are almost identical, and have existed under national and local policy for many decades. The land is not part of the ‘open space’ designation that covers Western Park on the Leicester City Local Plan (2006) proposals map, and instead falls within this definition of “previously developed land” (brownfield land).
The WWCE group started in 2016 as a direct result of the Council’s decision, without any initial consultation with anyone, to sell off that land, and the former school site. Over the years many groups have tried tirelessly to secure community space within the area from the Council, and naturally these buildings were the obvious choice. WWCE and others were told in no uncertain terms that there was nothing available and for financial reasons, the Council had to sell off that land. It is central government and changing spending priorities that are driving this policy of selling off Council property assets, not local politicians. There is simply no agenda beyond that. Despite many peoples very best efforts to find an alternative solution, the community were left with no choice other than to accept the Council’s decision to sell off the land, and buildings. The selling off of local authority property assets and the development of small pockets of brownfield land is happening across the country, with no indication that any change in government or similar could alter this course.
The facts are pretty eye watering. 150,000 new homes need to be built in Leicestershire to meet the demand for new housing by 2050. Brownfield sites within the City are prime land and planning policy is undeniably stacked in favour of that. We decided early on that the only viable and sustainable option was to work with the Council and Parmar Properties to secure community space for generations to come, before all the land and remaining buildings were sold off and lost for ever.