How many houses does Leeds REALLY need?

AGM8What is a sensible target for Leeds’ housing need to 2028, given likely household growth – 40,000, 50,000, 70,000?  Debate still rages,  in spite of the Planning Inspector’s September 2014 LDF Report approving the ‘aspirational’ 70,000 housing target.  For, firstly, the Council has admitted the figure is not achievable.  Secondly, in May 2014 the government released new population figures showing that Leeds’ population growth was actually 43% less than was expected when the 70,000 had been chosen.  Both facts were known by the Inspector before his report was released.

To try and reach a sensible target various actions are being taken by local communities and their representatives:  for if the housing target is too high, the need for a 5 year land supply combined with Developers ability to cherry pick the most profitable (to them) sites,  means that wellbeing across the City is compromised.  Regeneration areas (eg Holbeck) do not get the houses they need, green belt is put under threat (eg Scholes), and popular areas already creaking at the infrastructure seams face complete overload (eg Aireborough).

Leeds Housing Scrutiny Board

Planning regulations say that plans must take into account significant new evidence.  So, Leeds Council asked data expert Dr Peter Boden from Edge Analytics to remodel Leeds’ housing need scenarios.  Dr Boden’s  has released an initial report, and in September community representatives attending Leeds Housing Scrutiny Board (including people from Scholes and the Aireborough Forum), learnt that Dr Boden’s work is now pointing to a figure of  between 50,000 – 60,000.  It was also noted that this data included the assumption that there will be a large increase in employment in the coming years.

To understand Dr Boden’s work better,  the Housing Scrutiny Board has asked him to attend their meeting on 11 November 2014, to be held at 1.30pm in the Civic Hall.   Community representatives from Scholes, Aireborough Forum,  Boston Spa and Kippax have been invited to attend, and the invitation is also extended to members of the public.  However, Dr Boden’s report has not been made available to community groups involved in neighbourhood planning to look at before the meeting, so they have had to issue a Freedom of Information request.

Department of Communities and Local Government (DCLG)

The need for Leeds to have a Development Plan as soon as possible is crucial, but the plan has to be sensible.  The threat to wellbeing caused by the aspirational 70,000 housing target, has been put by a range of local community groups, including Kippax, Scholes, Boston Spa, Horsforth, Morley and Aireborough, to DCLG in support of letters written by Stuart Andrew MP, Alec Shelbrooke MP, and Greg Mulholland MP.   A meeting was arranged with Planning Minister Brandon Lewis for 29th October, along with a request for him to come to Leeds and meet community groups to consider both the issues they raised and the degree to which community groups had been engaged in the whole process – as Localism and planning regulations demand.

Adoption of Leeds Development Plan By Leeds Council

Meanwhile Leeds City Council will be putting the Leeds Development Plan to a vote on 12th November 2014, complete with a 70,000 housing target, and no date for a target review.   This means that Aireborough’s (Guiseley, Yeadon and Rawdon) housing target will be 2,300, plus yet more land put aside for what is known as protected areas of search (PAS) – this is land that can be used if yet more land is required.  There is little in the plan by way of increased employment, infrastructure needs have not been established or funded, and traffic modelling has not been done.   In addition, Bradford Council are planning increased housing along the A65 corridor from Menston to Addingham.  Members of the public who wish to comment on this should write to their local councillor.

The role of the Aireborough Neighbourhood Development Forum will therefore be to find sustainable sites for the housing target,  establish what type of housing is needed, look at aspects of design we would want to see in housing, estimate infrastructure needs, look at required community facilities, ensure that the area has a required level of green space, and try to incorporate innovative ideas in placemaking covering, cycle ways, renewable energy, shared space, micro-business hubs, and other ideas to solve the planning issues we have in the area.  We encourage anyone with an expertise or interest in these areas to join the Forum and help develop the masterplan for Aireborough.