September will see us start the last step in the Aireborough Neighbourhood Forum’s challenge to Leeds City Council over the Council’s decision to develop 4 Green Belt sites in Aireborough before 2023 in the Site Allocation Plan (SAP).

The Site Allocation Plan has been revised by LCC and ‘Remitted’ to the Secretary of State without any Green Belt sites being used for housing allocation in the 2012 – 2028 plan. In other words, the Green Belt boundary around Leeds will stay the same as it was in 2006 because Leeds City Council say there are no exceptional circumstances to change it: for now.

The Green Belt Around Leeds

This Remittal to the Secretary of State, following a review of the housing land supply in Leeds, was the requirement of the Judge in Our Green Belt Challenge. This followed Mrs Justice Lieven’s judgement that there had been errors of law in the process that had allocated Green Belt sites in Aireborough, as well as a material error of fact made by LCC in their housing supply figures that affected the whole of Leeds.

The Remittal SAP will now be looked at by a Planning Inspector in the week beginning 14th September 2021, to make sure it is sound. The hearing will be conducted online, but will be attended by interested parties. We already know that a Consortium of Housebuilders and Developers* will challenge the decision by Leeds not to allocate Green Belt sites. Their primary arguments will be

  • That Aireborough should deliver 3% of the Leeds Housing target (In line with Spatial Policy 7 in the Core Strategy)
  • That not building on Green Belt sites in outer areas of Leeds will reduce the amount of non-market (ie affordable) housing in Leeds delivered on big sites by developers. (Leeds say there are other types of schemes to deliver affordable housing.)
  • That the Green Belt sites in outer areas of Leeds are required for 2-5 bedroom houses, so that there is not an excess of apartments in the inner city in the housing mix.

These three reasons, the Consortium says, amount to exceptional circumstances and there are no other reasonable options but to allocate Green Belt sites. You can read their arguments on the Examination Website here document EXR8; also individual representation under Matters 1 and 2.

Guiseley Ings – Green Belt that separates Guiseley and Menston

The ANDF has replied to all these points in our response to both the February 2021 SAP Remittal consultation, and the Inspector’s June 2021 Mattters & Issues questions. We have also engaged our barrister, Jenny Wigley QC**, to attend at least one of the sessions to give evidence, along with ourselves, on behalf of Aireborough residents. We have used the remaining monies from the Green Belt Challenge Fund, which were kept for the purpose of seeing the case through.

You can follow the Examination News on the Hearing website here. And, we will, of course, update you on progress.

* Consortium Members – Stonebridge Homes, Bellway, Avant Homes, Miller Homes, Taylor Wimpey, Newett Homes and Barratt David Wilson Homes. The statement also includes the views of developers including KCS Developments, GMI Property, Caddick Developments, Thornhill Estates and the Home Builders Federation

** We are pleased to see that members of our Green Belt Challenge legal team were listed as Planning – Women of Influence 2021. Jenny Wigley QC, our barrister has this citation – “Jenny successfully led the challenge to the Leeds Site Allocations development plan which was hugely significant and one of the most seminal pieces of litigation this past year.””She successfully worked with a neighbourhood forum on a local plan challenge; – she’s done a lot of those kinds of challenges for community groups.” Our solicitors were Town Legal, and lead solicitor Meeta Kaur MRTPI who oversaw the process was also named as a Woman of Influence 2021.