Leeds planners reject homes schemes which are too far away from public transport

Major housing developments in Yorkshire's biggest city are being turned down by planners because they are not close enough to public transport networks to help the city meet its 'zero carbon' targets, a council leader has revealed.

Leeds City Council leader Judith Blake has called on strategic body Transport for the North to be more ambitious with its 2050 target to bring the greenhouse gas emissions of the region's transport network to net zero.

Comparing the goal with Leeds City Council's target of making Leeds carbon neutral by 2030, she said TfN was not matching the ambition of the local authorities that make up its leadership.

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The skyline of Leeds, Yorkshire's biggest city. Stock pic

She told a meeting of the northern leaders on the board of TfN, which is responsible for creating a long-term strategy for northern transport, that most local areas have carbon neutral targets much earlier than 2050.

The board discussed how people in the North could be persuaded to switch from polluting diesel and petrol cars to other forms of transport, with clean air zones being introduced in a number of cities.

Leeds has this week been forced to delay the September introduction of a clean air charging zone for certain vehicles in the city centre, because of the coronavirus pandemic.

But during the TfN meeting, held in Manchester before the decision was made, Coun Blake said "you can feel the difference" in the city centre because taxis are already converting to cleaner technology.

And she added: "I hope TfN can help local authorities who more and more now turning down planning applications because they are not meeting the climate obligations in terms of housing developments that are completely isolated from public transport networks.

"In Leeds we are starting to turn down significant planning applications because they haven't got that connectivity in and we have got to join up with that through TfN."

During the meeting Darren Hale, the deputy leader of Hull city council, said better coverage of electric charging points was needed to persuade more people to switch to electric cars.

He pointed to North East Lincolnshire Council, which he said had a fleet of 25 electric vehicles "but people still fight for the diesel vehicles when they are driving out of town".

Coun Hale said: "It's not because the borough doesn't have a good source of re-charging points, it's because the places you're going to haven't."

TfN chairman John Cridland said there was strong consistency of message from urban and rural leaders that his organisation needed to be more ambitious with its carbon neutral work and bring the agenda into the mainstream.

He said: "It is not an easy thing to do but that is not an excuse for not doing it. 'We'll get to the environment when we've discussed infrastructure' is what we've got to get over."

A TfN report said the 'decarbonisation' of road and rail was largely in the hands of national government as regional leaders could not change Vehicle Excise Duty or electric vehicle tax incentives.

The Department for Transport this week published a document setting out how the government would work with others to reduce the carbon impact of the transport system. The transport decarbonisation plan will be published in later in 2020.