An unprecedented plan to build 1,800 new homes has been approved by Leeds City Council in one single sitting of planning chiefs to help plug chronic shortages.
Council bosses have signed off on 10,000 new homes over the past two years as the city aims to build 66,000 homes by 2028.
At the same time, city leaders are also promising to use all the powers at their disposal - and to lobby Government for even stronger powers - to tackle rogue landlords and absentee owners who are letting 4,000 long term empty houses go to rot.
Councillor Debra Coupar said the clampdown was “just one part of our strategy to ensure there are quality, affordable homes in Leeds”.
Leeds City Council’s most influential plans panel has just rubberstamped either full or outline permissions for five schemes across the city.
It is one the largest numbers of new builds signed off in a single sitting in recent times, and was only stopped from being the biggest ever because plans for 500 homes on part of the Seacroft hospital site were sent back to the drawing board.
The largest single approval is in the city centre, where the City Reach scheme on the former Yorkshire Chemicals site on Kirkstall Road will provide 780 new flats and 234 student bedsits, together with a raft of leisure and retail facilities. A further 270 homes were approved off Tyersal Lane in Tyersal, and the other three schemes will see around 530 new homes in Micklefield.
The city aims to build 66,000 new homes in total by 2028 as part of its Core Strategy aims. Currently, around 70 per cent of all new homes in Leeds are being approved on brownfield sites.
The council’s executive member for regeneration, transport and planning, Richard Lewis, said: “It is very pleasing that these new homes in such significant numbers have been approved, as it shows the positive relationship we have with developers who want to invest in our city. We are committed to providing the new homes and infrastructure the city needs as it continues to grow, and especially to see brownfield sites redeveloped to boost regeneration and growth and to offer as much affordable housing as possible to make Leeds the ideal place to live, work and visit.”
Leeds City Council has recently launched its own lettings agency alongside other proposals to improve housing conditions in the private rented sector. Problems are particularly high in the city’s student heartland.
Shadow housing Minister John Healey said: “This is innovation led by the Labour council and I wanted to see what the plans were and how it might be received by some of the residents here as well.
“One of the biggest changes in the city is that for the first time in decades, probably since the war, there are more privately rented houses than council houses.
“And because standards vary widely, a lot of people are having problems.
“That’s why this council agency is like a public sector challenger to the market, so it becomes more and more the norm that basic conditions that all of us would want to take for granted - decent homes that we rent and pay a lot for - are up to scratch.”
Counc Coupar, said the project will “help ensure there is a supply of affordable, warm, welcoming and safe homes to rent on the private market”. She added that tackling poor conditions in privately rented and empty homes is part of “a comprehensive package” to “vastly improve” the sector.