Leeds Council to remove ALL 37 greenbelt sites from long term building plans
Decision-makers look set to finally scrap long-term plans to allow building to take place on dozens of green belt sites in the district.
The move, which will see councillors consider a proposal for 37 sites to be removed from Leeds’s Site Allocations Plan (SAP), follows a high court ruling earlier this year.
Leeds City Council now claims that, upon review, it has enough potential future housing sites so that the green belt areas previously earmarked for development no longer need to be built on.
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 judgment 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.
Jennifer Kirkby is chair of the Aireborough Neighbourhood Development Forum. While overjoyed, she warned against complacency.
“Amazing – that isn’t what we expected,” she said. “We thought they would remit the SAP back to the secretary of state with some green belt in.
“The fact they want to remit it without that green belt is really good.”
She said that the council had to put in a review of the SAP by December 2021 – and urged fellow campaigners to keep an eye on developments.
She added: “We have won the battle but not the war. Our interest has never been the green belt in the whole of Leeds – our interests have been planning in Aireborough. But it just so happens that all the greenbelt in Leeds was unlawful.
“We want to make sure that houses are built within the urban environment and we didn’t want to use the green belt.”
The council’s Development Plan Panel will meet next week to discuss the proposals. A paper set to go before members claims Leeds now has enough land to more than meet its housing requirements up to 2028 without the need to build on the green belt.
Coun Andrew Carter, leader of Leeds City Council’s opposition Conservative group, said: “This news is clearly welcome and communities throughout Leeds should hopefully see these sites remain in the Greenbelt where they belong. However, you are left to wonder what might have been, the ruling administration very nearly allowed hundreds of acres of greenbelt land to be built on and were it not for the High Court intervention, they would have.
“It is a disgrace that this could have happened from a council that is supposed to want to protect the Greenbelt and the environment. They have been well and truly shown up and it is particularly frustrating as they ploughed ahead with their 70,000 housing target in the teeth of serious opposition from my group, all other opposition political groups and campaign groups all over the city.
“It is pleasing that these sites are now likely to be saved but many before them have been built on, the numbers were wrong from day one and it is clear that the Council administration owe residents of Leeds a massive apology – sadly I suspect that will not be forthcoming.”
A six-week public consultation process seeking views on the proposed removal of the 37 sites from the SAP is scheduled to begin in January.
Coun Lisa Mulherin, executive member for climate change, transport and sustainable development, said: “The SAP has been a huge undertaking for the council and one that will shape the places where people live, work and spend time for many years to come.
“The removal of these 37 sites from the plan will bring certainty for residents and investors and help us get on with the job of ensuring that the city’s housing needs are being met.”
Coun Neil Walshaw, who chairs the Development Plan Panel, said: “Removing these green belt sites from the SAP will draw a line in the sand and give all parties an opportunity to work together to deliver the high quality housing that people in Leeds deserve.
“We need to look at the bigger picture when it comes to our housing requirements, taking in employment, transport, climate change and of course our recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic.
“This is a positive step as we near the end of a process that has been carried out with a wide range of stakeholders and generated significant public interest.”
The council’s development plans panel is set to meet to discuss the proposal on Friday, December 11.