Planning and development are of continuing interest to the residents of Leeds North West.

As we have reported before, all decisions on planning are now circumscribed by the Coalition’s National Planning Policy Framework. Only last week, some Coalition rebels [ not including our own Mr Mulholland] raised the huge problems the NPPF poses for Local Authorities – and the extent to which the NPPF has left Councils no longer masters in their own house.

Leeds City Council, like all planning authorities, is deeply concerned about this.
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So this week it will discuss proposals to give local people more power in planning decisions.

Two issues in particular are crucial: ‘brownfield first’, and the power which the NPPF has given to developers through their right to appeal to planning inspectors and override local decisions.

Councillor Peter Gruen, Deputy Leader of Leeds City Council, will call on the Coalition government to do two things.

First, to restore the requirement for brownfield sites to be considered in detail instead of developers being able to make successful applications for greenfield land.

Second, he will argue that there needs to be a “levelling of the playing field” for planning decisions. Under the current rules, developers have the chance to ignore local decision making and instead appeal to planning inspectors with little local knowledge to make favourable appeal decisions. Local residents have no similar rights to appeal against decisions they disagree with.

What Councillor Gruen is proposing  is that local planning decisions should carry no automatic right of appeal. This would be in cases where there is a clear and established local plan to develop the site, which has already been subject to public consultation.

Councillor Peter Gruen said: “People in Leeds want to make sure that appropriate brownfield sites are used before our greenbelt is further encroached upon by developers. A return to a national presumption of using appropriate brownfield sites first would help us achieve our ambitions of protecting greenfield and greenbelt sites wherever possible.

“The current planning scheme is fundamentally unfair as it gives developers multiple bites of the cherry. If the local decision is not one that they like, they can appeal to a planning inspector to override the panel’s verdict. However, local residents cannot appeal when a decision is made to build in their area.’

The NPPF is, as we have reported before, a Developers’ Charter. There are many problems with it.

But Leeds Council is trying to address some of them head on.

Britain Can Do Better Than This – and Labour Councils like Leeds are showing how.

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