Green light for city-wide housing plans is blow for pitch campaigners

27 June 2019

Plans on where to build tens of thousands of homes over the next decade have finally been approved by Leeds City Council.

Leeds’s controversial Site Allocations Plan (SAP) has been subject to years of setbacks and controversies, culminating with a public inquiry into the document from a government planning inspector last year.

Following the publication of the report, council officers have agreed to recommended changes and the authority looks set to adopt the plans, which include the TV Harrison Ground, on Oldfield Lane in Wortley, which has been earmarked as a site suitable for a 61-home development.

But opposition leaders on the council have warned this was nothing to be proud of, suggesting that not having an SAP in place could have led to unacceptable housing developments taking place in the city.

During the meeting, Coun Lisa Mulherin, the authority’s executive member for climate change, transport and sustainable development, said:

“This has been a very lengthy process. An immense amount of work has gone forward.

“The SAP has been through a process of due consideration and independent examination and the planning inspectors have advised that the plan be adopted.

“It has been found by independent inspectors to be sound.

“Thirty-two green belt sites have come out of the site allocations plan in this process. Adopting the plan will ensure that we have a five-year land housing supply that will enable the council to defend the site against speculative development, as we have seen in the past.”

She added that issues around housing targets were subject to a separate process – the core strategy selective review – which is out to consultation until this Friday (June 28). A subsequent report will be brought forward on this, after which the SAP will be reviewed in line with the new housing target.

The core strategy currently has a target of 66,000 new homes between 2012 and 2028. Following changes to the SAP, the council is now considering a much lower target of 47,000 new homes between 2017 and 2033 for the core strategy.

Coun Alan Lamb, deputy leader of the Leeds Conservatives group, said:

“It is welcome relief in many ways that we have a plan. It is a welcome relief that we have a five-year land supply.

“But this will be of no relief to those communities who have already seen sites lost because of the mess we have got into around site allocations and core strategy.

“There is no doubt that we have got into a significant mess. The administration got us in it up to our necks, and we have just about managed to drag ourselves to our waists, and it is certainly not a day of celebration.

“It is welcome that some green belt sites have been protected, for now, but there are still 4,000 houses unnecessarily released from the green belt for development.

“The housing target is still 70,000 in the city, and had better decisions been made, we would not have got into this mess.

“The consequence of all of this is that we have an increase in executive homes on green fields and green belt sites across the city; and sites in desperate need of regeneration that remain undeveloped.

“We have more houses but they are not the houses people need – not the affordable houses for young people, not the smaller house for older people.

“We are still left with a plan that is totally incompatible with the climate emergency. There are too many sites that will be developed and dependent on the motor car and with don’t have public transport links.”

He added that the council must do more to bring brown field sites forward for development.

Council leader Judith Blake said:

“I think we need to have an update as to why so many brown field sites have been stalled. There are permissions on those sites and they are not being developed out.

“With the lack of power we have to do anything about that, it will be a useful debate to have.”

In response to both councillors’ comments, a senior officer said:

“We are working hard for those (brown field) sites to come forward. We are stymied by the market and decisions by investors. Rest assured that we are doing everything we can to stimulate the market so that the sites do come forward positively.

“The plan in front of members has a significant proportion of brown field sites within it, in terms of identifying them.

“The alternative to not having an SAP in place is to simply continue the situation where there is a free-for-all for developers.”

Leeds Liberal Democrats leader Coun Stewart Golton added:

“I really don’t think the council’s tone should be celebratory in terms of having achieved a plan belatedly.

“We should be judging ourselves what we consider to be sustainable.

“There was a free-for-all while this council dithered in sorting out its housing allocation target. It means we now have 2,000 houses already built or due to be built in areas where this council did not deem it suitable to be built.

“I appreciate there is certain relief that by July we might finally have ended that free for all.”

Coun Blake said:

“This is a very complex and difficult area, and we are continuing to lobby to get much more powers so we can do something about sites that have planning permission but are just being sat on.

“There will be other opportunities to have another debate before we get the final sign off which will take us forward in a way that many other local authorities have not been able to achieve, and we must not forget that.

“This is a complex and difficult piece of work, especially when you think of the scale of the city of Leeds, and officers need to be commended for the extraordinary work that they have undertaken to get us to this position.”

The news will come as a blow to the Wortley residents who have set up an action group to fight to restore the sports pitches and facilities.

The campaign group, who the Dispatch have reported on extensively, argue that the land was left as a gift to the children of Leeds and that it has previously acted as a breeding ground for developing football talent before it was allowed to lay dormant for 14 years.

Earlier this year a six-week period of public consultation on proposed changes to the Leeds Site Allocations Plan for future housing, greenspace and development saw a number of West Leeds sites taken out of the plan.

  • These included:

    Elder Road, Swinnow Road (25 houses)
    Elder Road (22 houses)
    Hough Side Road, Pudsey (200 houses)
    Upper Carr Lane, Calverley (18 houses)
    Acres Hall Avenue, Pudsey (62 houses)
    Land off Gamble Lane, Farnley (200 houses one side, 120 at back of Hare Park Mount)
    Rodley Lane, Calverley Lane, Calverley (53 houses)
    Land at Rodley Lane (17 houses)
    Calverley Lane, Calverley (18 houses)

The final city-wide SAP plans will be voted on by councillors at the forthcoming full Leeds City Council meeting on Wednesday, July 10.

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