A glimmer of hope for Leeds' Green Belt?

Thursday, 19 October 2017 12:37

Rawdon Billing in West Yorkshire is part of Leeds' Green Belt Rawdon Billing in West Yorkshire is part of Leeds' Green Belt Photo: © JoPedds., Creative Commons License, Flickr

David Cove, Chair of CPRE West Yorkshire comments.

Leeds’ Core Strategy, adopted in 2014, identified a need for 70,000 new homes to be built over 16 years. In its Site Allocations Plan (SAP), Leeds used this target to justify the use of the Green Belt to accommodate 12,481 dwellings across 73 Green Belt sites (thus removing these sites from the Green Belt). Leeds is now in the process of a selective review of its Core Strategy. It had already become obvious that the Leeds’ target of 70,000 new homes, was far too high, as neither population growth nor commercial activity, had increased as much as had been projected in the previous assessment of future housing need. As part of their review, Leeds has employed Edge Analytics to review its housing target in advance of making revisions to its Core Strategy, and their preliminary assessment of housing need is a much lower figure.

The public examination of the SAP was scheduled to begin on October 10th. In advance of the examination, CPRE had queried the soundness of the Plan, arguing that the housing target alone was not a sufficient “exceptional circumstance” to justify the release of Green Belt for development. Meanwhile, the Yorkshire Greenspace Alliance, which is affiliated to CPRE, has raised sufficient money to employ a barrister, expert in planning law, to attack the Leeds housing target at the hearing.

Against this background, all was set for confrontation at the SAP Examination but then the Government released a consultation document that included reference to housing numbers. Using a standard methodology, this document assesses Leeds’ housing need as only 42,000 homes, rather than the 70,000 homes adopted in the Leeds’ Core Strategy. Because of this, which appears to have taken the Leeds City Council by surprise, the Council has stated that it would be prudent and responsible to address the implications of this revised figure before examination of its housing policies begins. The Council therefore proposed to the Inspectors, that the housing sessions are placed on hold pending further work on Green Belt housing allocations. The Inspectors accepted this approach and have agreed to postpone examination on housing and the use of the Green Belt until February/March next year. Examination in October will still go ahead on all non-housing issues but these will require less time. The hearings are therefore rescheduled for 24th to 26th October.

This all seems like good news, potentially reducing or perhaps even eliminating the need for development on Green Belt sites, but there still may be opportunities for Leeds to argue against the Government’s new figure, since there are sure to be loop holes! It is also possible that the Inspectors, when they see the changes that Leeds may now propose, will judge these to be sufficiently major to require a period of further public consultation. This would delay the adoption of a SAP, and might allow developers to argue that since Leeds has no adopted SAP, they can apply for planning permission on sites which may in future be excluded from the SAP.