Leeds housing bosses accused of ‘Pontius Pilate’ antics in latest row over controversial 70,000 new homes target

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Two senior Leeds councillors have clashed over claims that the ruling administration is failing to listen to the concerns of grass roots communities about “inflated, unrealistic and unnecessary” housing targets for the city.

Councillor Andrew Carter, leader of the main opposition Conservative group at Leeds City Council, has accused the authority’s planning and regeneration boss Richard Lewis of using a ‘“Pontius Pilate” approach to what he claims are multiple failures in dealing with calls for the housing targets to be reviewed.

In a lengthy debate at Leeds Civic Hall, the two veteran Leeds councillors were at loggerheads over councillor Carter’s White Paper Motion asking bosses to reconsider the stated target of 70,000 homes to be built by 2028, a plan rubber-stamped by senior councillors in 2014. Residents’ groups in some parts of the city have long campaigned against the council’s revised long term housing masterplan, which includes proposals to build thousands of homes on greenbelt land.

Coun Carter asked for colleagues to vote to “resolve to immediately implement a review of housing numbers” as well as other amendments relating to the city’s five-year housing land supply.

However coun Lewis flipped the motion on its head, and instead succeeded in voting through his own amendment, which asks for “fundamental changes” to national planning laws, and calls on the Government to scrap the “perverse incentives developers have to hold on to deliverable land in order to increase profits”.

Coun Carter criticised Coun Lewis’s “Pontius Pilate” amendment, and refused to support it.

He said it was Labour-controlled Leeds council and not the Government who went ahead with the 70,000 target after a public inquiry, adding that opponents at both political and community level had been “unanimous that to go ahead with a figure like that would end in tears, and it has”.

The political row over the city’s housing targets has been ongoing for three years.

The Tory group previously urged the council to drops its target to 50,000.

Council chiefs last year opted to stick with their original numbers – after rejecting government statistics on projected population growth in the city.

This was after the authority launched a major review of its long term-core strategy to build 70,000 homes.

The review was launched after an Office for National Statistics (ONS) report showed that the number of households in Leeds is projected to rise by 44,500 by 2028.