During this baking hot summer many of us, certainly within the Conservative group of councillors, are sitting through and participating in what is known as the Site Allocations Plan (Part 2), the planning examination before two planning inspectors on the Labour council’s proposals to build 70,000 houses in the planned period through to 2028.
For most people in Leeds this has all been a very confusing process.
The planning inspectors made it clear, however, at the opening of the inquiry, that they were looking at the council’s adopted plan proposals for 70,000 houses, a figure that the Conservative opposition on Leeds City Council have always believed to be over-inflated, unnecessarily damaging to the environment, and unsustainable.
We believe that is now well and truly borne out by all the evidence on population numbers, new jobs to be created, and any other statistic you care to name!
Finally, the council have agreed to review this core strategy, and are now proposing that a further inquiry is held, at a date yet to be determined, to examine a revised figure of 52,000.
This is despite the fact that the Government has now indicated that, through its methodology, the figure is nearer 43,000.
We are left with the ridiculous situation where we currently have an inquiry which will allocate sites for houses against a total of 70,000, the council administration have now belatedly asked for a formal review, with a revised figure of 52,000, and a figure from the Government which is different again.
The sad part of all this is that in 2014 when the Labour council adopted its core strategy of 70,000 houses, we moved an amendment calling for an immediate review to be instigated, and to run simultaneously with the site allocation process, so that when the figure was reduced we would not unnecessarily sacrifice greenbelt and green field land.
All opposition councillors voted in favour of our amendment. Four years later the council got round to it.
In the meantime a whole series of greenfield sites across the city have been lost, in my view unnecessarily, whilst affordable houses have not been delivered in the right places, on brownfield sites which need to be regenerated. Had the Labour administration moved with speed as we requested, to review their core planning strategy, we would not now be in the ridiculous position of having an inquiry allocating sites for 70,000 houses, when we ought to be allocating sites for somewhere between 42,000 and 52,000 houses.
Coun Andrew Carter is Conservative group leader at Leeds City Council.