Another threat to Green Belt

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THE Leeds City Council housing strategy makes the authority’s priorities clear in no uncertain terms – 70,000 new homes needed by 2028 with the least impact on the Green Belt.

Many will question why therefore, in a city blighted by swathes of brownfield land desperately needing to be developed, nearly a third of the construction work will take place on protected sites. That’s 21,000 of the planned properties going up on either greenfield, or Green Belt land that supposedly has protected status.

No one doubts the council faces a significant housing challenge, yet worryingly the strategy itself reveals underlying concerns about the data it is based on.

The figures – from the independent Strategic Housing Market Assessment – foresee more building during the economic crisis than in the preceding boom years. Bizarrely, despite these apparent overly optimistic predictions, the authority runs the risk of the Government inspector declaring the plan unsound if they ignore these disputed figures.

Given the author clearly has little faith in the data for this crucial 16 year plan, residents in Leeds will similarly have little faith that it will be seen through, let alone achieved.

Furthermore, with 16 per cent of the homes being built in the Green Belt and 14 per cent on other protected sites, it is hard to justify the strategy’s goal of prioritising development of brownfield land. Not only could this lead to another attack on the countryside, but building on greenfield sites will increase pressure on the creaking transport and NHS infrastructure that serves the towns and villages surrounding the city boundary.

All of this comes at a time when the country is staring down the barrel of a second recession. The property market is far from stable, while those construction firms that have survived the crash are certainly not powering forward an economic recovery.

The house building industry is often the first into recession, and the first to come out of it. A coherent, realistic housing strategy can be the catalyst to help make this happen, allowing private and public sectors to regenerate deprived areas and inspiring much needed economic growth.

This, however, does not appear to be a strategy for the future.