Fresh row over 70,000 new homes target for Leeds

Leeds City Council chiefs today said they will stick with a 70,000 new homes target by 2028 – after rejecting government statistics on projected population growth in the city.

In March, the council launched a major review of its long term-core strategy to build 70,00 homes – which was rubber-stamped at a full council meeting last November.

The review was launched after an Office for National Statistics (ONS) report showed that the number of households in Leeds is projected to rise by 44,500 by 2028.

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Today, council chiefs said they have analysed the ONS report, but are staying with their original strategy.

Conservative group leader Coun Andrew Carter has accused the council of a “cynical political ploy” and has called for an immediate review of the “unnecessary and unwanted 70,000 figure.”

The Labour-run council said the ONS report failed to take into account a range of factors, including housing demand created by future economic growth as 56,000 new jobs are expected to be created in Leeds by 2031.

A Leeds City Council spokesman said: “Officer analysis of the latest evidence suggests that when economic growth is taken into account figures are more likely to be in the region of 60,000 new homes, but this doesn’t include the additional need to provide more affordable homes or factoring in other elements such as children living at home with their parents or sharing with friends.”

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Coun Peter Gruen, Leeds City Council’s executive member for neighbourhoods, planning and personnel, said: “As we said when the ONS figures came out, we would look at them and take action if we think it is necessary. Having done so we do not feel halting the process, which would have major implications for housing in Leeds in terms of leaving the countryside immediately vulnerable, is justified at this time but we will continue to monitor the situation.

“We do have flexibility and options in terms of phasing and with the site allocations process, while we are firmly committed to a review of the overall 70,000 figure within three years as the economy continues to recover. So this is the most prudent and responsible approach to delivering the appropriate levels of new housing we need as a city.”

Coun Gruen added: “If we reacted every single time we had a new set of statistics we would never get anything done in the city.”

But the council’s decision to continue with the 70,000 new homes target has come under fire.

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Leeds City Council’s Conservative group leader Coun Andrew Carter, said: “This is hugely disappointing news. Community groups and individuals across the city will feel they have been badly let down by the council’s Labour administration. There is no doubt in my mind that they have misled people into believing that they were prepared to review the 70,000 housing number virtually straight away.

“It is quite clear this was just a cynical, political ploy before the general election.

“All along we have argued that 70,000 is far too high, the ONS projections clearly back up our point of view yet they are pressing ahead regardless.

“New housing is needed in Leeds but in the right locations not on green fields and certainly not on greenbelt land. People across Leeds will rightly be worried about the consequences of this decision for school places congested roads and healthcare provision and we again call for an immediate review of this unnecessary and unwanted 70,000 figure.”

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Colin Campbell, planning spokesman for Leeds City Council’s Liberal Democrat Group, said: “The council should immediately reduce its target for new housing from 70,000 to 60,000, in line with the suggestions we have repeatedly made but which have been blocked by the council’s leadership. This would mean that many of the greenfield sites threatened would be saved and homes would be built where they are needed.

“We need starter homes for young people, and social housing for those on the waiting list. These are best built in local communities, not on greenfield sites miles from the local communities where those in greatest need live. It is already clear that the vast majority of these homes can be built on brownfield sites, or where planning permission has already been given.

“We should lift the axe threatening greenfield sites, which would only see million pound plus houses being built on them, and concentrate on meeting housing need.”