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Community beats back gentrifiers

Setback for class cleansing as ex-miners' homes saved in Leeds

TENANTS of 70 former miners’ homes in Leeds have won a massive victory against a property developer who wanted to demolish the properties to make way for a luxury housing estate.

For two-and-a-half years the tenants of the houses at Oulton outside Leeds have lived with stress and uncertainty — but last night they were celebrating after Leeds City Council’s Planning Panel unanimously refused permission for the Pemberstone development.

The houses are in the LS26 postcode district and the tenants formed the “saveourhomesLS26” campaign supported by Leeds Hands Off Our Homes group and more recently by housing campaign group Acorn Leeds. They were also backed by the National Union of Mineworkers.

LS26 activist Cindy Readman told the Morning Star today: “I feel amazing. I can’t believe it to be quite honest.”

The tenants lobbied Leeds Planning Panel where the decision was announced today.

Ms Readman said: “We’re on our way home now. I think then we’ll be having a few drinks.

“The last two-and-a-half years have obviously been horrible. The stress of it has been unbelievable to be honest. You couldn’t make plans, you just don’t know what is going to happen.”

When the publicly owned deep coal mining industry was privatised by the Conservative government in 1993, British Coal — successor to the National Coal Board — owned tens of thousands of the homes of miners and their families.

As part of the sell-off, many properties were sold to private landlords and the 70 homes at Oulton ended up with Worcester-based property developer Pemberstone Group. The  firm, which is controlled by multimillionaire Andrew Barker, planned to demolish them and build luxury houses far beyond the financial reach of the tenants.

The families were leaving their community at a time when Leeds was receiving 11,500 applications for social housing.

Tenants lived in doubt for years as the council went through a lengthy planning process.

Pemberstone can appeal against the council’s refusal of planning permission to the government’s Department of Communities and Local Government, which has the power to override the decision.

Ms Readman, who has lived in her home with her husband for 14 years and brought up three children, said: “Listening to what was said in the planning meeting it looked like the planning people were trying to make it as watertight as possible, with valid planning reasons for refusing.

“If they do take it to appeal we are hoping the decision will stand.”

Leeds City Council had not responded to a request for a comment when the Morning Star went to press.

A spokesman for Pemberstone said: “We are disappointed at the outcome particularly as the planning officers had recommended our proposals for approval.

“We believed our plans offered the only realistic solution for houses which have exceeded their expected lifespan.”

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