Council Urged to Reduce Targets to Protect Green Belt Land

Late last year, it emerged that following consultation, Leeds City Council would debate cut their housing target from 70,000 by 2028 to just shy of 52,000. The reasons for the potential change were numerous, including a lower than initially thought demand for housing and worries surrounding the development of green belt land.

As part of the original plan, areas of greenbelt land had been earmarked for more than 6,000 homes, however, the proposed revision to the Site Allocations Plan would ensure that the land is safe from development, albeit temporarily. The revised plan was based on updated methodology from the government, although ultimately the council rejected the plan.

Now, the plan under fire once again, this time from Horsforth and Rawdon councillors who suggest that housing targets should be cut further to help protect the greenbelt.

Dawn Collins and Jonathon Taylor spoke out against development on the greenbelt, including sites in the areas they represent, at a council meeting earlier this month, suggesting the new target should be somewhere in the region of 42,000 – even lower than the rejected 52,000 target.

Councillor Collins accused the Labour-led council of ignoring the outcome of the consultation period, stressing: “You have not listened to anything anyone opposing your ideas has said so why would we believe that you have included any of the feedback you have received into the changes?”

Cllr Taylor, in his maiden speech to the council, suggested that the council wasn’t serious about its commitment to protecting the greenbelt, saying: “Genuinely affordable housing will be built by converting old office buildings and abandoned mills, not by concreting over greenbelt in our towns. The four and five bedroomed executive properties built on greenbelt sites will not make Horsforth and Rawdon more affordable for aspiring homeowners like me, and others like me in my community.”

He added: “A lower, more achievable target of 42,000 would remove greenbelt and crucially greenfield sites from the plan, preserving the integrity of our towns and villages and prevent the irreversible change to our area that has no support in the community.”

Public hearings are currently ongoing on the Site Allocations Plan, which sets out locations identified for possible future housing developments.

The current proposals are based on the previously agreed Core Strategy. However, Leeds City Council has asked for the housing element of the plan to be put on hold for further public debate following the aforementioned new methodology.

Leeds City Council chair of the development plan panel Councillor Peter Gruen said: ”These hearings are an important step in the process of Leeds having a set future housing allocations plan in place and in terms of transparency they are ideal as they are open to all to attend and give everyone the chance to tell the inspectors what they think.”

Debates will be ongoing for some time, however, it appears that the council are keen to do what they can to protect the greenbelt sites, with the 33 sites not being released for development until the council ‘deems it necessary’. Critics, meanwhile, may as exactly when that might be.