Wednesday 9 November was a Full Council meeting in Leeds. Housing, housing growth & sites were on the agenda.
The problems produced by the National Planning Policy Framework will be very familiar to regular readers of this website
– in particular the effective reduction in local control over planning decisions, and the extent to which it works in practice as a developers’ charter – at the expense of local communities and sustainable development.
In Leeds, the operation of the 5-year land supply rules has meant the overturning of locally-made decisions by central government; inconsistent decisions have been made, and the beneficiaries of this – and of the situation of uncertainty – have been developers, not local communities here in our city.

Labour in Leeds has a clear line on these issues – which it put to Council on Wednesday.

1. The Secretary of State, a Conservative MP, has overturned local decisions on planning applications in Leeds based on a supposed lack of a 5 year housing land supply. Labour believes that decisions like this primarily benefit developers at the cost of local communities.
2. The Labour administration has a longstanding commitment to selectively review the Core Strategy, including the housing target. Labour welcomes the work that is underway to review the government inspector approved target of 70,000 homes in the light of recent evidence.
We wish to see this concluded swiftly, whilst continuing to move ahead with the Site Allocations Plan. The results of this review should be reported to the Council’s Executive Board at the earliest opportunity.
3. The Planning Green Paper published by the LibDem/Tory Coalition in 2010 stated that “these radical reforms aim to:
• Restore democratic and local control over the planning system;
• Rebalance the system in favour of sustainable development;
• Produce a simpler, quicker, cheaper and less bureaucratic planning system.”
Alas, in 6 years of first Coalition, now Conservative government, this has clearly not been achieved.
Labour believes the National Planning Policy Framework needs fundamental change to ensure communities’ voices can be heard clearly.
In particular, Labour believes that the practical operation of the 5 year housing land supply undercuts local, democratic decision making and makes a mockery of a plan-led process.

Inconsistent decisions have been made on the 5 year land supply from government appointed inspectors. Leeds communities have found themselves at the mercy of housing developers.

Labour calls for an overhaul of the planning framework
– that puts powers truly in the hands of local authorities to reflect local needs and vision,
– that encourages sustainable development
– and that seeks to remove the perverse incentives of holding deliverable land and limiting development on sites in order to increase profits.

The current situation is one of great uncertainty.
The Labour administration in Leeds has thus asked all group leaders to write collectively to the Housing and Planning Minister to highlight these concerns
– and to call, at the very least, for a suspension of the 5 year land supply requirement on Councils that are progressing quickly towards a Site Allocations Plan hearing.

Labour is also calling on the government to consider introducing penalties against developers who are found to be land banking, and for a report to be brought to Executive board outlining what more can be done in Leeds to address this problem.

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