The panel meeting on land allocations for the entire Leeds region agreed all proposals and sent them on to the executive board today (January 6, 2015).
This follows the formal adoption of the Leeds City Council (LCC) core strategy for growth up to 2028 in November 2014, which includes the provision of 70,000 houses and other building works, setting out the scale and distribution of growth.
It is now necessary for sites right across the region to be chosen to accommodate that expansion, and the development plan panel today discussed which sites could be allocated for employment, green space, and retail as part of the site allocations process.
However, though all proposals were agreed, some concerns were raised, most of which highlighted a worry about the overall housing scheme for the city, which is up for discussion next week.
Consistently a hot topic, councillors pointed out the direct link between the sites set aside for employment and those for housing, and the number of sites to accommodate the 70,000 houses expected proved a nagging worry.
This link was clear when Thorp Arch Trading Estate was raised as a site for 72 hectares of general employment use, though there is an existing outline planning application at LCC for up to 2,000 houses on the site.
Wetherby Coun John Procter (Con) said: “I proposed this site be allocated in its entirety for employment and the reason for that is that it would have been ridiculous to take substantial tracts of land out of the green belt when there is a site like this readily available.
“That said, clearly the devil is in the detail and whatever does come forward on the site needs to be closely examined.
“This site is between two village communities and the highway infrastructure is fragile. It can deal with matters but it is all about how.”
There is a surplus of 24 hectares for employment land and this is partly to allow for the potential loss of some sites to housing. According to Coun Procter, however, such an oversupply compromises the green belt.
“If the aim of the game is to try and protect the green belt at all costs, I would like to have seen some of that land allocated for housing,” he said.
Coun Procter added that, if employment land is being set aside for new people moving to the city, this is driving up the number of houses to be built.
He said: “We know that we are going to be not just catering for those people not in employment in this city, but bringing in a substantial number of additional people.
“Is that going to happen? Are they going to come and live in Leeds? The presumption is that they are and it is that that leads to this ridiculous number of 70,000 houses.
“It is the employment numbers that are driving this figure of 70,000.”
Responding, LCC executive member for planning Coun Peter Gruen (Lab) said: “It is always easy to criticise and say it should be this or that figure.
“If at this stage we are over providing employment land in my view that is better than under providing.
“There is going to be a period when all issues are considered in the round before this goes to public consultation and I would expect in that period some of the detail would come out.
“This is the beginning of the detailed analysis and consideration.
“There are specific areas we are asking officers to look at without taking a decision today because I don’t like at this stage, personally, to make decisions on the hoof.”
There were also concerns that any loss of employment land to housing would mean an additional number of houses being built on top of what is planned for.
Reacting to the proposed use of a site in Gildersome for employment, Otley and Yeadon Coun Colin Campbell (Lib Dem) said: “It seems strange we are taking chunks out of the green belt for employment use but losing employment land to housing.
“We need to have some measure of protection over existing sites. If not, it strikes me as ridiculous that elements of them can disappear.
“Lots of employment sites are likely to go and that is more housing into the mix.”
However, planning officers said their hands are tied on this point by the core strategy, which does offer some protection, and that the aim now is to allocate sites accordingly.
Deputy chief planning officer Steve Speak said: “These are the numbers in the core strategy and as it stands today we have to produce a plan that is consistent with that.”
Similar concerns were raised when green space was discussed, with a field in Moortown taken out of green space classification and put into housing.
This was, however, tabled by the panel’s chair Headingly Coun Neil Walshaw (Lab) for discussion at next week’s meeting, when the panel will discuss proposed allocation for housing across the region.
None of the proposals, at this stage, are being agreed for public consultation, but will be sent to the executive board in February 2015, to be followed by public consultation in summer or autumn 2015.
Reflecting on the next meeting, on January 13, Coun Procter said: “There are some good elements about this and some regrettable elements. That is how this process works.
“In terms of allocations I am pleased the officers have agreed with what I have been saying for some time and that is that we have a strategic location for housing in our area and that is going to be Headley.
“That relieves the pressure from us and that is all to the good. From that point of view I am content with what has been proposed for our area.
“That is not to say I am content with the proposals as a whole, because across Leeds there are other areas that don’t have a big strategic opportunity like we do.”