A LONG term masterplan for up to 70,000 new homes to be built in Leeds over the next decade has been signed off to be sent to the Government for final approval – despite claims that the views of thousands of objectors have been ignored.
Leeds councillors last night (Wednesday) voted through the Site Allocations Plan (SAP), an expansive document – four years in the making – which lays out the proposed locations of swathes of new housing split across 11 areas and almost 800 individual sites across the city.
Critics have long argued that much of the blueprint is tantamount to an attack on the city’s cherished green belt. However the council insists that the vast majority of earmarked plots are brownfield - or previously developed - sites.
During a lively 90-minute debate at Leeds Civic Hall last night, the council’s regeneration chief Richard Lewis said: “It has been a long and difficult process. I do recognise that many people have concerns. But we cannot be left in limbo. We have to move forward.”
Leeds council chiefs last night signed off a sprawling housing masterplan which will help re-shape the city’s urban landscape over the next decade - and hit back at claims that the views of thousands of residents were being ignored,
The authority’s Site Allocations Plan - a four-years in the making document - has now been sent to the Government for its views ahead of a public examination and an expected final approval and adoption by the end of the year.
As previously reported in the YEP, the authority has broken down the city into 11 areas and almost 800 individual developable sites.
Large swathes of development are earmarked for the inner city and city centre to boost regeneration and growth.
However there have been outcries from various outlying communities in particular, with concerns that the homes numbers are “unsustainable” and an attack on the city’s cherished green belt.
Speaking during a lively 90-minute debate at Leeds Civic Hall last night, the council’s regeneration and housing chief Richard Lewis said: “It has been a long and difficult process but, whether you’re in favour of everything in the plan or against, it’s absolutely right that this plan goes forward.
“I do recognise that many people have concerns. It’s about building on greenbelt. It’s a normal human reaction.
“The fact that there are huge numbers of people objecting in some cases does not make it easy for the process to be carried out.
“I think we have come up with the best that we can.”
He added: “We cannot be left in limbo. We have to move forward, and the way forward is to put this to public examination.”
Last night’s full council meeting was told that there had bene an unprecedented 45,000 replies to a wide ranging consultation.
Fiona Venner, chair of the council’s development plans panel, said that “given the size and scale, it’s unlikely that everyone will be happy with every allocation”..
Councillor Andrew Carter, leader of the biggest opposition Conservative group, said the proposals - and specifically the overall homes targets - had been “flawed from the beginning”.
And he claimed that “virtually every single representation has been dismissed”.
“The people of Leeds have gone through a pointless exercise in consultation,” he said.
He also claimed the ruling administration had needlessly spent £300,000 on expensive barristers in the development of the document.
His colleague Barry Anderson said there had been “a heck of a lot of disagreement” with the plan and claimed the public are “totally, utterly confused”.
And he warned the ruling Labour administration: “This is another NGT on its way. You won’t listen.”
Lib Dem councillor for Otley and Yeadon, Ryk Downes, said: “This plan is fundamentally flawed.
“We have consistently opposed the numbers and they are way too high.
“Brownfield sites have been overlooked in favour of green fields. We don’t need anywhere near the number of house that are proposed.”
However Labour councillors supporting the plan hit back, and urged cross-party unity on a “vital” issue for the city.
Councillor Graham Hyde said it was unhelpful to make the debate about “brownfield versus greenfield”, and it was pointed out that 62 per cent of the earmarked site are brownfield, previously developed parcels of land.
And councillor Neil Walshaw said that rather than attacking communities, the policy it would help enshrine would protect them.
“This is a vital part of Leeds’s planning armour,” he told colleagues. “The clearest way to protect communities from unwanted development is by passing the Site Allocations Plan.”
WHAT IS THE SITE ALLOCATIONS PLAN?
The Site Allocations Plan is part of the council’s overall Local Plan (or Local Development Framework) for Leeds, and is key to identifying specific allocations for housing, employment, retail and greenspace up to 2028.
A six week consultation ended on Monday.
The document will now be submitted to the Secretary of State and a public examination will be held later this year.
Any amendment from the inspector will then be consulted on before a plan is finally adopted by the end of the year.