U-turn on Leeds housing targets as '˜inflated' numbers are slashed by a fifth

Leeds City Council has made a u-turn on its controversial housing targets, slashing projections of new homes needed in the city over the next decade by 21 per cent.

The authority had originally predicted it needed to build 70,000 new homes by 2028, a figure that was backed up by an independent Government inspector.

But after a major review involving community groups and housebuilders among others, it admits the number may now be slashed to 55,000. The timescale for the revised target would also be 2033 - five years longer- to take account of updated projections.

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The climbdown comes after years of debate, and a raft of objections from communities which feared the impact of huge swathes of development, much of it on green belt land, on their doorsteps.

The council’s housing bosses today insisted the numbers were always likely to be reviewed, as they were based on supply and demand and the latest available population forecasts.

But opposition councillors have slammed the ruling administration for sticking to the “entirely unnecessary” original numbers for so long.

Leeds City Council’s executive member for regeneration, transport and planning, councillor Richard Lewis, said: “The housing figure set out in the Core Strategy was based on evidence at the time and it is important to remember it was endorsed by an independent government inspector following a thorough examination. We committed to a review within three years and the latest information and population evidence points to lower and slower growth than was originally forecast.

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“So it is likely this review will recommend the overall figure for housing need should be reduced to reflect what we know now. Once the findings of the SHMA are finalised, the council will need to consider a revised housing requirement as part of the Core Strategy review, the implications for site delivery and phasing for development.”

Peter Gruen, chair of the Strategic Housing Market Assessment (SHMA) Reference Group, which carried out the review, said: “I welcome the opportunity to take soundings from the SHMA Reference Group on the initial conclusions of the technical work, which indicates that a revised housing need for Leeds may be in the region of 55,000 homes up to 2033 (the revised plan period as part of the Core Strategy review). There is more work to do in finalising the SHMA and the council will need to fully consider its findings. Any revised housing figure would then be subject to wider public consultation by the end of the year.”

Councillor Andrew Carter, leader of the main opposition Conservative group at Leeds City Council, has consistently opposed the 70,000 homes target, and previously described it as “overinflated”.

He said: “They have now had to accept what we have been saying all along, the 70,000 houses that the ruling administration wanted to build were entirely unnecessary and the damage that figure has already done cannot be reversed. Of course what they still are not doing is removing Greenbelt from their programme, this merely says that it does not need to be built on for another 5 years. The administration sticking to the 70,000 target for so long is nothing short of disgraceful, they have had these population figures for years.”