Leeds 66,000 new homes debate draws a big crowd

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There was standing room only at a Leeds planning meeting yesterday (Tuesday) as residents gathered in force to hear the latest on proposals to build 66,000 new homes in the city by 2028.

Leeds City Council’s Development Plans Panel gathered at Leeds Civic Hall to debate the recently published Site Allocations Plan, which lays out the authority’s masterplan to meet growing demand and tackle the city’s housing shortage.

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All areas of Leeds will be targeted for new developments, with at least three per cent of the total new homes to be built in each of 11 areas, and on 763 individual sites. Thirty-four per cent of the total new builds would be in inner city areas and the city centre and 62 per cent on previously developed brownfield sites.

However the proposals have already led to serious concerns from many smaller communities which locals say don’t have the infrastructure to deal with mass developments.

Campaigners from across the city were at the meeting yesterday, and there was a fraught atmosphere at times in the packed committee room.

Council officers told the meeting that the document is a “guiding principle” for urban regeneration in the city, and it has the “appropriate balance”.

At one point, there was a shout of “nonsense” from the public gallery as councillors debated elements of individual proposals for the 11 areas of the city.

After almost two hours of debate, the panel had only worked its way through two items on the agenda, prompting one councillor, Labour elder statesman and Pudsey representative Mick Coulson, to urge colleagues to consider the “roomful of the public” who had made the effort to turn up, and “do some forward work” rather than political bickering.

One officer, quizzed by the panel, admitted that a lot of the sites - among them 20 per cent of greenfield land - are considered “controversial”.

>A meeting of the full council today (Wednesday) will debate a cross-party opposition motion to reduce the 66,000 homes target.

‘FATAL FLAW’ IN HOUSING NUMBERS

Councillor Andrew Carter, leader of Leeds City Council’s main opposition Conservative group, said the Site Allocations document as it stands is “fatally flawed” and claimed it is following national Labour party guidelines rather than local needs.

Speaking ahead of yesterday’s meeting, he insisted key members of his party had “opposed the housing numbers” quite vocally at last year’s public inquiry, the approval of which allowed the council to go ahead with adopting the wider strategy.

“No one has told [the council’s administration] to put that number forward,” he said. “We believe it was based on faulty statistics. The damage it will do will not be reversed. Yes we need houses, but the council is jeopardising the infrastructure and environment of the city.”

Asked if he and colleagues were electioneering, he admitted the housing crisis would be an “election issue”, but stressed that was agood thing for the people of Leeds.

See a video interview with councillor Carter above. For a video interview with councillor Peter Gruen, the council’s housing boss, visit http://www.yorkshireeveningpost.co.uk/news/latest-news/top-stories/leeds-city-council-unveils-locations-of-66-000-new-homes-1-7033405.

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