Insults fly as Leeds housing targets debate gets heated

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Leeds’s controversial housing targets dominated proceedings at today’s full council meeting at Leeds Civic Hall, the first of 2018.

A heated hour-long debate on an upcoming consultation on the council’s Site Allocations Plan (SAP) - detailing the 33 areas of the city earmarked for development over the next decade - turned vicious at times, as the Conservative opposition urged the council to lower its overall numbers.

The debate followed changes triggered by a recent Government review, which suggested a housing target for Leeds of 42,384 over a 16 year period.

Leeds City Council had earlier estimated it needed to build 70,000 houses to meet growing need.

But last summer, the authority was forced to slash its own projections by 21 per cent to 55,000.

This followed a major review involving community groups and housebuilders among others. The timescale for the revised target was also amended to 2033 - five years longer- to take account of updated projections.

The climbdown came after years of debate, and a raft of objections at both political and community level.

Today’s lengthy debate ultimately approved a consultation on the council’s updated masterplan, which will now see the use of ‘broad locations’ as a possible means to safeguard greenbelt land.

A six-week consultation on the SAP will be launched on Monday.

The YEP understands talks are under way about a separate consultation on the housing numbers.

There were some heated exchanges on the issue today, with Conservative councillor John Procter accusing the ruling Labour administation of having “no conviction” over its housing targets “embarrassment”.

But Coun Richard Lewis, Leeds City Council’s housing and regeneration spokesman, responded by accusing the opposition of engaging in “pantomime” politics and “creating more confusion in people’s minds”.

“There’s nothing they won’t do to create a smokescreen, rather than proper debate,” he said.

“We have to get on with the difficult stuff. You are housing need deniers.”

The Lib Dems also waded in, with group leader Stewart Golton claiming that Leeds’s current housing strategy was “built on municipal greed” which gave “open season for developers”.

But Labour backbencher Caroline Gruen, a councillor for Bramley, said the “deeply unsatisfactory” Government housing policy was really behind the city’s problems.

Tory councils were having their housing targets increased, and in some cases doubled, while Leeds had its targets reduced, she told the chamber. She slammed the Government’s “hurdles and nonsense” approach on the issue.