Leeds Revised Site Allocation Plan – Not Lawful. Go Back 10 Squares.

Ladies and Gentlemen, the planning for the development of the City of Leeds has now turned into a game of snakes an ladders, on an ever-changing Hogwarts style board.

On 5th October the Planning Inspectors reported that LCC’s Revised Site Allocation Plan (March 2018) was not lawful.  The SAP they had to examine was the Submission Site Allocation Plan (May 2017); this was the SAP submitted to the Secretary of State by LCC as sound, and examined in Autumn 2017 for employment, green space and retail allocations.   This interim report from the Inspectors means the Leeds SAP process has slithered down a big snake back to 2017, and has two choices for making up lost ground; withdraw it or put in main modifications.

Down the Snake

So, here we all are, back in May 2017.  However, we now know that the 70,000 housing target is wrong – from the housing need work done by both the Government (42,384) and LCCs themselves (52,000).   But, we don’t know what the ‘right’ target is, as the Core Strategy Review (CSSR) has not yet been approved by an Inspector at a public hearing.

Thus, the May 2017 Submission  SAP is likely to be found unsound, as it cannot use the 70,000 target for the exceptional circumstances to release Green Belt land for 12,481 dwellings across the City.  The Inspectors verdict is “in these circumstances, given that national policy attaches great importance to the Green Belt and only envisages altering boundaries in exceptional circumstances, significant releases of Green Belt would not be justified at this stage.

The ‘unlawful’ Revised SAP tried to preempt this by putting half the Green Belt land for 6,550 dwellings in the larder as a potential stock of GB land for future use (called Broad Locations to tie in with NPPF terminology).   But the Inspectors say this is not a valid.  Changes to Green Belt boundaries can only be made in exceptional circumstances, and that can only be evaluated at the time the release is required in a future plan review.

Making Up Lost Ground

Many would say, and many have, that the most sensible thing to do now would be  withdraw the May 2017 Submission SAP, then complete the Core Strategy Review with its potential new housing target of 52,000,  and then submit a new SAP on that figures.  However, the Inspector’s have given LCC the choice of a potential ladder.

A Potential Ladder

Leeds can use the changes in the Revised SAP as a list of what are called ‘main modifications’ (MM) (ie changes) to the Submission SAP and submit those for the Inspectors’ consideration.  LCC have chosen this ladder as they want to get a SAP in place quickly !!  In this situation the Inspectors have said three MMs must appear –

1, A main modification to only allocated housing sites in the  Submission SAP from 2012 – 2023 (years 1-11 of the Core Strategy).  All references to phasing  to be removed.  We calculate this means that LCC only need to allocate housing sites for 46,500 dwellings, plus or minus calculations for unplanned windfall sites, and the 5 year land supply.

2. A main modification  is required to delete all housing allocation proposed for the Green Belt, except those which LCC think are necessary to provide supply up to 2023.  The Inspectors want to see further work from LCC to clarify and justify which Green Belt sites they think are necessary to allocate and which kept as Green Belt.  This work must include reasons why GB land is considered preferable to greenfield sites that are available but not in the SAP.  Also, an assessment of reasonable alternative non GB housing sites deliverable by 2023, plus the reasons why some GB sites are preferred against others.  They say that this is missing from the current plan.

3. A further main modification must commit Leeds to reviewing the SAP as soon as the new housing target is agreed for the CS, with a view to having a new SAP adopted no later than 31 March 2023.  Any new SAP would then be measured against the new NPPF2 rules, which are stricter on the use of Green Belt.

LCC can put in other MMs, and must then submit them to the Inspectors for comment.   The Inspectors will then recommend MMs of their own.   All MMs will then be submitted for a public consultation.

Inspectors’ Report

This will happen after all the above has been completed.  The Inspectors have made no comment yet on the actual housing sites, infrastructure requirements, or employment land, green space, and retail sites, including the large GB site for employment at Leeds Bradford Airport,  all of which have to be reported on.


The Inspectors have asked LCC for a timetable for the work; this was discussed at Development Plans Panel on 16th October.  At the moment LCC have given this guideline

Start Nov 2018 – LCC Main Modifications sent to the Inspectors
Start Nov 2018 – Supporting Justification on Green Belt Sites required up to 2023
End November 2018 – Inspectors’ Modifications expected plus their view on LCCs approach
Dec 2018 –  New Government ONS Housing Need Figures
Feb 2019 – Consultation for 6 weeks on all Main Modifications (LCC & Inspectors)
Feb 2019 – Potential CSSR Hearing
Spring 2019 – Potential additional SAP Hearing
Spring 2019 – Inspectors’ report on Submission SAP and modifications

What Does All This Mean for Aireborough

Simply that we will have to wait and see what LCC come up with in their MMs.  At the DPP meeting on the 16th October they seemed adamant that little would change.   However, we will take a logical guess based on facts  as known.

Aireborough (Guiseley, Hawksworth, High Royds, Yeadon and Rawdon) has a CS target of 2,300 – 3% of the Leeds total.  Three percent of the LCC year 1-11 target would be 1,395.

  • We have already built, or there is planning permission for, around 1,120.
  • There are non-GB land allocation for a further 80.
  • That means we need land for roughly 200 dwellings which would need to be developable before 2023.

Leeds may well decide to put in an Aireborough Green Belt site or two for that 200, but their preference for that will have to be  justified in their revised assessments, and there is a lot of ifs and buts to argue in that, which we will not go into here.  Except to say, that in the Submission Draft of May 2017 LCC had dropped the Aireborough target by 298, from 2,300 to 2,014; on that basis no Green Belt sites would be needed at all up to 2023.

We will just have to wait and see.

Hogwarts Style Board

As all of this is happening the planning context is changing, which makes life even more complex, and a game of timing.

  • From January 2019 the new National Planning Policy Framework comes into play for submitted plans – that has tighter rules on Green Belt, and gives more say to Neighbourhood Plans for non-strategic policies.
  • Calculations for 5 year land supply change in November 2018
  • The Government is still to firm up on its standard methodology for housing need
  • Office of National Statistics figures have just shown another drop of 32% in Leeds’ household needs in the plan period.  However, another set of figures is due in December 2018 to ratify.
  • Leeds is facing a number of appeals for developers to build on greenfield sites that are not in the SAP
  • Leeds has a new Strategic Housing  Land Availability Assessment (SHLAA) table coming out before the end of 2018
  • The Housing Market Characteristic Area (HMCA) housing need figures have still to be released.

Contact Us

If you would like to discuss this further with us the Aireborough Place Space will be open for two more Saturday mornings, (20th and 27th October) 10am – 1pm, Old Parish Rooms, Towngate,  Guiseley.