Leeds campaigners furious over inspector’s housing targets report

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CAMPAIGNERS have reacted furiously to a Government inspector’s effective approval of Leeds’s 70,000 new homes target for 2028.

Full details of the planning inspector’s report on Leeds city council’s core strategy for future development have just been published, in which he did not object to the authority’s estimate that it must build 70,000 new homes in the next decade and a half to meet demand.

However campaigners and opposition politicians insist the number is too high.

Leeds‘s housing boss Coun Peter Gruen has previously admitted the figure was “ambitious” - and the target was “at the upper range of what we think is realistic”.

Opposition Conservative group leader councillor Andrew Carter said “How on earth will the resources be found to deliver the amount of new schools, new roads and road improvements, dentist and doctor’s surgeries that these houses will need? I am not opposed to new housing, but it must be in places where it is needed, instead of where housing developers think they can make a quick buck.”

In his initial conclusions, the inspector issued a list of modifications the council must make. Key among those is that the authority cannot ‘stagger’ its house-building, and must have a specific annual target of 4,500.

The inspector has also approved the council’s principle of a 65 percent PDL (previously developed land) and 35 percent greenfield split for the first five years. The authority is already working on a long-term brownfield land development programme.

Meanwhile Leeds North West MP Greg Mulholland has raised concerns in Parliament about the figures used by local authorities to calculate the housing targets.

He asked the leader of the House of Commons, Andrew Lansley MP, “May we debate whether the targets are accurate before we see huge swathes of north Leeds and Wharfedale being built on?”

Campaigner Dr David Ingham, chair of W.A.R.D (Wharfedale and Airedale Review Development) said: “The 70,000 houses which Leeds is claiming need building over the next 14 years is based on a largely aspirational notion that Leeds will become the number one city in the North and therefore will need these houses to accommodate the workforce.

“The logic behind this is highly questionable as over 100,000 people commute daily into Leeds from outside the city region and most of the highly paid workers in the financial and legal professions prefer to live outside the city.

“No account was taken of the actual increase in population as shown by the 2011 Census and the 70,000 housing target figure was based upon an over-estimate by the Office for National Statistics.”

Councillor Peter Gruen, the council’s housing portfolio holder, said last week that the inspector’s recommendations were “generally very encouraging and show that we’re on the right track with many key elements of the plan unchanged”.

“It’s vital that we get the strategy right as once finalised it will be the key guide to all development and growth in Leeds for the next 15 years,” he admitted.

“Housing has always been a key element of the strategy which the inspector has recognised, accepting our ambitious target and the proposed distribution around the city, which will allow us to meet the needs of local residents.”

The council’s cabinet will discuss the inspector’s findings at a meeting at Leeds Civic Hall today (February 14).

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