Housebuilders ‘half-hearted’ on greenbelt issues, claims senior Leeds tory

A senior Leeds politician has slammed housing developers for being ‘half-hearted’ when it comes to building on Greenbelt land.

Tuesday, 2nd March 2021, 5:20 pm
Updated Tuesday, 2nd March 2021, 5:24 pm

Members of Leeds City Council’s Development Plans Panel met to discuss council recommendations to remove 37 greenbelt sites from a document which sets out where houses should be built in the coming years.

Following a legal challenge by campaigners in Aireborough, the High Court ruled against earmarking the sites for development in the council’s Site Allocations Plan, leading the council to scrap plans to allow building on them altogether.

But the meeting was told objections to this came from housebuilders, who feared development in the city could become “unbalanced”, with a disproportionate number of houses due to be built in and around the city centre.

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Coun Andrew Carter says developers need to accept greenbelt sites are unsuitable for development.

Responding, leader of Leeds City Council’s opposition Conservatives group Andrew Carter said: “The legal challenge brought about by the Aireborough community group led to the High Court judge to say the arguments for building on these sites had not been made.

“To say the building fraternity’s objections are half-hearted would be understated. They then go on to single out particular sites that happened to be the ones where they would probably generate the most value. It rather gives the game away.

“They are the first to go to war when a decision goes against them, and it’s interesting that they seem to have disregarded the fact that a high court judge has said, quite clearly, that the exceptional circumstances for the release of the sites from the greenbelt have not been made.”

The SAP is a key planning document to allocate land for future housing, office, industrial and retail use in the city. It was approved by the council in July 2019 after six years of public consultation and independent examination by government planning inspectors.

But a High Court judgement following a legal challenge from Aireborough Neighbourhood Forum, in relation to four green belt sites in Guiseley and Yeadon, found that the 37 sites should be temporarily removed from the SAP, and that they should be sent back to the Government for consideration.

Following this, the authority claimed that, upon review, it had enough potential future housing sites so that the former greenbelt sites no longer need to be built on anyway, and did not plan on including greenbelt sites.

A document that went before councillors presented objections from developers thus: “There are concerns the proposed approach is only determined by the total housing supply, does not reflect housing markets and will lead to an unbalanced and disproportionate oversupply of housing in the City Centre and Inner area.

“There is an over-reliance on the re-use of brownfield sites, which places environmental objectives over housing needs of the outer areas of the city.

“The council argued that housing distribution was an exceptional circumstance for release of land from the Green Belt in the evidence to the High Court challenge.”