Leeds planning blueprint approved after years of delays

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Decision: Leeds Civic Hall.

By Don Mort, local democracy reporter

A blueprint for where thousands of new homes will be built around the city has been approved by councillors after years of complications.

Leeds City Council’s Site Allocations Plan (SAP) was subject to a High Court challenge and scrutiny by government planning inspectors.

The original SAP proposal, which allocates land for housing, office, industrial and retail use, was approved by the council in 2019 after six years of public consultation.

It included 37 greenbelt sites around the city, but a legal challenge from Aireborough Neighbourhood Forum over four of the sites led to a High Court ruling that the SAP would be reviewed by the Planning Inspectorate.

The council then decided it did not need to include the 37 greenbelt sites for housing as land was available elsewhere.

But the council eventually opted to include one of the sites, Barrowby Lane in Manston, for development to create employment.

The Planning Inspectorate agreed with the council’s revised SAP in a report delivered on January 2.

Councillors voted to adopt the SAP at a full council meeting where political tensions surfaced over what caused the delay.

Some criticised the council’s handling of the issue, saying too many greenbelt sites were placed in the original plan.

Coun Helen Hayden, executive member for sustainable development and infrastructure, said delays to the SAP were out of the council’s control:

She said: “We have been driven by the evidence at all times.”

Coun Caroline Gruen (Lab, Bramley & Stanningley), who chairs the council’s Development Plan Panel, said: “It has taken an unreasonable length of time. This was imposed on us by the government inspectorate.”

But Barry Anderson, Conservative councillor for Adel and Wharfedale, said: “The process was far too lengthy and the administration got themselves into all sorts of problems, so much so that the developers plundered us.

“Too many green belt sites were allocated.

“Parts of the city were thrown to the wolves to get the administration out of a problem of their making.”

Coun Alan Lamb, Conservative group leader, said it was no cause for celebration that the SAP had taken 12 years to approve.

He said: “The officers have done all they can with the hand they have been dealt. The decisions that led to this were political decisions.”

The full council meeting was told SAP complications were partly caused by the cancellation of the Leeds section of the HS2 rail link.

Coun James Gibson, Labour member for Cross Gates and Whinmoor, said: “Once again it is councils that have to pick up the pieces and make tough decisions over what land to allocate to promote economic growth.”

Conservative Harewood councillor Sam Firth criticised the inclusion of Barrowby Lane in the SAP.

He said: “The only reason we are voting today to let this report through is to safeguard those other sites.”

Coun Hayden the said council had been working with developers to find brownfield sites for development.

She added: “Over the last ten years 80 per cent of housing has been developed on brownfield land. That actually proves we are brownfield-led.”

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