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Socialist Party members at Little London Tenants and Residents Association community picnic against the ‘mega-block’ – photo Leeds Socialist Party

Socialist Party members have been campaigning alongside activists from the Little London Tenants and Residents Association (LLTRA) against a proposed ‘mega-block’ development proposed for one of the limited number of green spaces in this densely populated community on the outskirts of the city centre (see previous piece here).

We spoke to Steve Skinner, Chair of LLTRA about the recent victory the campaign had won in getting the development knocked back at a recent Leeds City Council planning meeting.

Q) What were the proposals and why were local residents opposed to them?

Steve – The proposals were for a 17 storey private apartment block on council land at the heart of our estate. We certainly need more homes here as many people in Little London are living in tremendously cramped conditions – families of five living in 2 bedroom high rise flats is quite common around here. But the flats aren’t for us – only 12.5% are deemed ‘affordable’. Anyway, ‘affordable’ actually means 80% of the city centre market rate which is still unaffordable for most people living around here.

Apart from this, Little London is a densely populated estate with few facilities – particularly green space where people can relax and children can play. The demographic of Little London has changed substantially in recent years. There are now more children living in the area than ever before – so much so that Little London Primary School has doubled its intake in recent years. Wherever you go you see children trying to play games on tiny stretches of land or in corridors . The little bit of space we have left needs to be preserved and used for the benefit of the community. We need children’s playgrounds and food growing projects – not unaffordable private flats.

Furthermore Little London is one of the most polluted parts of town. In a city that has just declared Climate Emergency, the loss of 51 mature trees is unthinkable.

Q) What campaigning took place against these proposals?

Steve – Tenants have been universally opposed to the proposal and have been campaigning hard since the beginning of the year: we’ve petitioned, lobbied councillors, held packed meetings and protest events. The best thing about the campaigning work is that it has brought people together from so many different backgrounds – black, white Kurdish, East European etc. It’s been great to see so many people united behind a common cause. Hopefully it will lay the basis for solidarity in future campaigns and help strengthen the tenants’ organisation.

Q) Where does the campaign go from here?

Steve – Hopefully, this campaigning work has now paid off! At the panel meeting where the developers presented their case, last Thursday, they got an absolute drubbing. The scheme was criticised on just about every front and the developers left the building with their tails between their legs, after been told to go away and rethink the whole thing.
They might be back at some stage, but hopefully with the objections and conditions laid down at the meeting, and if we keep up the pressure, it might not be worth their while. Hopefully they’ll give up on their plans for the area altogether.

In the meantime we’ll keep campaigning around this and other issues – fire safety, rent levels, benefits and everything else. Then, if the developers do return, we’ll certainly be ready for them!