Green belt areas of Leeds originally earmarked for housing are now set to be protected, following a statement from government planning inspectors.
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It follows a public examination earlier this summer into the site allocations plan for Leeds, which identifies locations for new housing to meet the future needs.
Councillors supported the move, with one senior member claiming the move “brings hope to communities”.
As part of a review into the plans, Leeds City Council proposed protecting 33 green belt sites around the district from development, despite previously being identified as possible locations for 6,450 future homes.
And two independent government-appointed inspectors, have today issued an interim statement on the plan which support protecting the city’s green belt.
It read: “The inspectors are concerned that the identification of broad locations in the green belt would simply not help to deliver the adopted core strategy policies by ensuring that sufficient land is available in appropriate locations to meet the targets set out in the adopted core strategy and achieve the council’s ambitions.”
The current site allocations plan sets out a requirement for 66,000 new homes in Leeds from 2012-2028. But the inspectors have suggested that the council only needs to provide for housing needs up to 2023. This would mean creating a new site allocations plan for housing needs after 2023.
At the same time, the council is also undertaking a core strategy selective review, to look at housing requirement based on new evidence. This recommends a lower future target of 51,952 new homes between 2017 and 2033.
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Leeds City Council executive member for regeneration, transport and planning Coun Richard Lewis said: “We are grateful to the inspectors for their hard work on the site allocations plan examination and we are delighted they have indicated support for the council’s approach to green belt protection.
“We know that we still need to build more homes throughout Leeds to meet the needs of the city as it continues to grow, and we are committed to as many of these as possible being affordable housing on brownfield sites. The site allocations plan aims to clarify which sites can come forward for housing in a sustainable way, and would put an end to speculative development in Leeds which is in nobody’s interest.”
Leader of Leeds City Council’s Conservatives group Coun Andrew Carter added: “This interim announcement will give hope to communities throughout Leeds, who have been campaigning against these plans since they were first proposed by Labour controlled Leeds City Council. I attended almost every session of the site allocations plan Inspection along with members of my group. We were determined to make crystal clear just how damaging the proposals on green-belt land could be for the city.
“Needlessly developing large areas of green belt would have been totally unacceptable and I am delighted that these interim findings have rejected the broad locations strategy which would have effectively stuck a flag in the ground on those sites for future development.”
Leeds City Council says it is now reviewing the comments and will carry out further consideration and consultation on possible changes.
The examination of the plan was held over 16 days at the Civic Hall in July and August, with the views of more than 470 participants including local residents, interest groups and house builders heard by the inspectors, who have also considered more than 50,000 written comments.