Green Belt Housing Sites – Inspector’s Response Now Out

On 17th November 2021 the Planning Inspector for the SAP Remittal (the process to review the need for Green Belt sites for housing in Leeds) reported to Leeds City Council, that she agreed with their decision that there are no exceptional circumstances to remove land from the Green Belt for housing in the Site Allocation Plan 2012 – 2028.

Proposed SAP Policies Map for Aireborough with Green Belt Housing sites removed.

In September 2021, we had attended the SAP Remittal hearings in front of the Planning Inspector, to support the LCC decision to remove the 36 Green Belt housing sites from the SAP. We thought that the representatives for the Council made an excellent case – and commend them for it.

We knew that Developers were going to argue to release the Green Belts sites for housing due to changing circumstances and jiggery-pokery with figures, so we yet again employed our barrister Jenny Wigley QC to make the case and ensure the High Court Judgment we won back in 2020 was upheld. The funds for this came from the Green Belt Fund so kindly contributed by the people of Aireborough.

The Planning Inspector has agreed with Leeds City Council that there are no exceptional circumstances to release the Green Belt sites in this Site Allocation Plan – subject to her final report.

The problem now is that the judgement was clear that ‘all aspects of all policies and text that give reasons for and effect to‘ the Green Belt allocations were not ‘adopted or approved’. Leeds City Council tried to argue that changes to many of the polices and texts were ‘Minor Modifications’ and they would do it later in a tidying up exercise. However, the Inspector has said they have to be done as ‘Main Modifications’ for the plan to be sound. (The Forum did point out in our initial response to the Inspector that this was the case.)

Further Public Consultation – 17 December 2021 to 28 January 2022

Given these further Main Modifications to the text and policies in the Site Allocation Plan 2019, there has to be a public consultation by law, to enable people to make comments on these changes. The Council have just sent out the documents for this. If you responded to previous consultations you should have an email, if you didn’t then you’ll find the consultation here.

The consultation is just on the Inspector’s Main Modifications, not on any other aspect, and nothing that has been said before needs to be repeated. The Forum does have comments on several aspects of the wording which we find confusing and liable for future misinterpretation, and we do not agree with Table 1 and the figures for Aireborough. You can find our detailed views here. We will be taking this up with the Council and Local Councillors.

However, the most important Main Modification at this time is this at MM2. You can respond to say you either agree or do not agree (giving reasons) with it.

Green Belt Odyssey

The Forum, with the support of many other individuals and organizations too numerous to mention, has worked long and hard to prove the above is the case. The journey started in 2013 and culminated in 2020 with a High Court Review in London. We thank everyone who has helped for what you have done, even the smallest contribution has played a big part in this outcome. To those who took on the huge responsibility for the case and all those who have put in hours of their time over the years, a special thank you.

However, strategic planning in Leeds moves on. The Developers are right in one thing, circumstances have changed, Brexit, the Pandemic response, HS2, the Leeds Climate Emergency Strategy, Government Planning Reforms (which are changing yet again), all have an affect on housing need and housing required. The Leeds Local Development Scheme gives the current time table and there will be both a review of the Core Strategy (currently underway) and SAP before 2024. It is therefore vital, that the people of Aireborough continue to take an interest and be involved in Local Planning.