At 1.30pm tomorrow (Tuesday 11th November 2014) the Housing Scrutiny Board of Leeds City Council will interrogate Dr Peter Boden of Edge Analytics about the Leeds Housing Target of 70,000 net new homes.
Why Does This High Target Matter?
This is a very important target because it could well give developers the opportunity to build on the Green Belt surrounding our city – spoiling our environment and adding further to the major congestion problems on roads like the A65, A660 and A658. The current rules mean that Leeds must have a 5 year building land supply available – even if it won’t actually be used. This enables developers to build in outer (more profitable) areas, while leaving empty sites near the city centre derelict. In 2012 failing to have a 5 year land supply cost Leeds Council Tax Payers nearly £1 million in payments to developers when the Planning Inspectorate ruled against the city and for developers. The developers also got planning permission for the green field land they wanted to build on – while derelict land was ignored by them.
Why Were Only 3 of the Highest Housing Targets Available Until the Examination? – We Don’t Know!
WARD has had major concerns about the whole way the 70,000 figure was produced and foisted on Leeds Councillors. We have discovered that neither the Council, nor its Scrutiny Board were ever given all 14 0f the alternative projections for new housing need – produced at the 11th hour at the Leeds Core Strategy Examination in October 2013.
The Strategic Housing Market Assessment (SHMA) only showed 3 options (the highest) for the Scrutiny Board and Leeds City Council to consider. All options were all surprisingly high and based on flawed statistics. Leeds chose the lowest of the 3 figures – approx 4,538 per year or a massive total of 77,000 new dwellings by 2026.
We understand that Scrutiny Board discussed these figures and were told they could not be reduced. The chart above is copied from the Leeds 2011 SHMA. You will note that the figures were produced in 2010 – before the 2011 census showed that Leeds had a far lower population growth than expected. By 2013 at the Public Examination they were 3 years out of date and known to be far too high – but they were never reduced.Magic: Lower Figures Produced After The Consultation – but just in time for the Planning Inspector
Then, on the morning of the Public Examination of Leeds Core Strategy, Edge produced a document with 11 additional options together with the 3 original forecasts in response to a paper produced by a group of THEY WERE ALL LOWER THAN THE THREE ORIGINAL CHOICES. Here they are – LEEDS CHOSE THE 3RD HIGHEST!
They were NOT available anywhere when the Core Strategy was consulted upon. Councillors had not seen, nor discussed them. Scrutiny Committee had never even seen, let alone discussed the now 14 options.
No-one, apart from the developers, had even seen them. To our surprise and concern Inspector Thickett refused to adjourn the examination despite the importance of this new information. It was now apparently too late to alter the figures even though this new evidence clearly showed that the original target was massively inflated – because the consultation was over!
We are hoping that Scrutiny Board will demand an explanation as to why the 14 options were not available when they originally examined the Leeds Housing Target. If all 14 options had been available, would the 3rd highest have been chosen? – We don’t think so!
Those at the Public Examination will remember that the 13 Developers’ Agents who attended claimed that an even higher figure was needed – even though this was obviously ridiculous. However as we all know the higher the target the more Green Belt and Green Field land that can be put forward for development – while inner city brown field sites remain derelict.
We look to the Scrutiny Board to reveal why the 14 options were not produced until too late AND why the 3 highest were – as if THEY were the only figures.