Leeds City Council has no time to lose when it comes to agreeing on its future planning rules, a meeting has heard.
Senior councillors agreed to put updated plans for the authority’s site allocations plan (SAP) to public consultation, following a review last summer into where new tens of thousands of new homes should be built in the coming years.
But, despite the changes meaning 35 greenfield sites will now be safe from development until 2023, councillors warned that longer-term core strategy plans could see the same sites at risk of development in the future.
Coun Andrew Carter, head of the Leeds Conservatives Group, told a meeting of the council’s Executive Board today (Monday) : “We will have a site allocation plan the council can work on and speculative builders will know this is the plan.
“If they want to build, they should go to the allocated sites and not waste everyone’s time trying to build on land that is protected.
“But until that revised core strategy is in place, and hopefully with a significant lesser number will we be sure that these green belt sites will be saved.
“Speed is of the essence moving to the next stage.
“The timeframe is still too long. Speculative housebuilders, will control the tap on various sites. It is therefore imperative that we move forward as soon as the core strategy is complete.”
As reported earlier this month, planning inspectors advised that 35 greenfield sites originally included in the plans – but later removed by the council – should not be included as potential sites for housing.
It followed the Government’s decision to revise Leeds’ original housing target of 70,000 new homes by 2028, to just over 40,000 by 2033.
But there have been warnings that the SAP only lasts until 2023 and that, following this, the sites could still be at risk of development because the council’s longer-term core strategy document still includes the Government’s old target of 70,000 homes.
The core strategy is set to be reviewed in February.
Coun Stewart Golton, head of the Leeds Liberal Democrats, added that economic and infrastructural uncertainty could play a part in future planning disputes.
He added: “There are areas of contention.
“It’s okay having a five-year land supply but there are other uncertainties coming our way – whether that is Brexit or HS2 being looked at again by the Government.
“It’s good news that it is here, but there are still quite a lot of uncertainties.”
Coun Richard Lewis, portfolio holder for transport and planning, said that while the outcome of the inquiry should be celebrated, there was no place for complacency.
He said: “It never is all put to bed. Planning isn’t like that.
“You’re always waiting for the next one to start. We are in a better place than we were a couple of years back.
“It’s true – we don’t know where the economy is going to be in the future. But we are in a better position.
“We have developments – particularly in the south bank – that I think will put us in a much better position to show we have the land supply.
“You should never say you’ve cracked a problem around planning, but we have made significant progress to ensure we are in a more secure position than we have been in a number of years.”
Coun Judith Blake, leader of Leeds City Council, added: “We need as an authority that we make sure we keep our foot on the accelerator.
“We won’t be stopping because this is happening, we can still make sure building is actually happening where we have given approval and ensure it will take place.”
The consultation on the SAP will take place from January 21 to March 4.
An inspector’s final report will then be produced, and will go back to a full council meeting at some point in the summer of 2019.