Leeds: ‘Change planning law to let us build where we need to’

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Leeds’s housing boss is launching a ‘Brownfield First’ campaign to urge developers to look to the inner cities first when building much-needed new homes, and to return decision-making powers on planning to local level.

Coun Peter Gruen is lobbying the Secretary of State for changes in planning laws which would revert to a “sequential” approach to development, meaning brownfield land – previously developed sites – is prioritised for development over greenfield land and is therefore released earlier and easier. He also wants more power returned to Town Hall decision-makers and to scrap the automatic right of appeal to planning inspectors.

The YEP has reported previously that the city owns 140 brownfield sites, covering 150 hectares of potential development land. Leeds needs to build 70,000 new homes by 2028 to meet escalating housing needs. Some of the 29 sites recently targeted by the council in a new drive have been dormant since the 1980s and 1990s.

A meeting of Leeds’s full council this week debated a White Paper Motion put forward by Coun Gruen, which will now form the basis of a direct appeal to the Government. However, in an unlikely show of consensus, the motion was passed with amendments by both opposition Conservative and Lib Dem councillors.

The motion said: “There is a genuine need for new houses throughout the city to provide affordable homes for first-time buyers and independent living for our growing elderly population. The coalition government’s National Planning Policy Framework should be amended to restore the formal sequential approach to land release and prioritisation of brownfield sites over greenfield sites.”

The motion also urged the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government to “reaffirm the primary importance of democratic local planning in decision-making by amending the Town and Country Planning Act 1990 so that all decisions...are decided locally and have no automatic right of appeal to a Planning Inspector”.

However, Conservative councillor John Procter also pointed out that the “sequential” approach was part of previous planning law, but was abolished by Labour’s then Secretary of State John Prescott.

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