Thursday, 4 October 2012

The Leeds planning problem and why Bradford must avoid it...


The Leeds Citizen reports on the latest in a long line of problems facing Leeds City Council over development of land that it identified - in the last 'replacement Unitary Development Plan (rUDP)' - as later phase housing sites. Yet again, after huge bills for planning appeals and High Court challenges, the Council is riding for a big bill:

Councillors sitting on a planning panel in Leeds are being warned not to fight an appeal lodged with the Planning Inspectorate over the construction of 92 houses on a greenfield site in Morley.

Developer Persimmon Homes lodged the appeal after a Leeds City Council planning panel last month rejected a recommendation from council officers to give the controversial development at Daisy Hill the go-ahead.

Now the council’s chief planning officer is telling councillors meeting to discuss the appeal next week that the council could end up with costs being awarded against it if the appeal is contested.

Now there's a caveat here as we found out in Denholme when Bradford Council left an empty chair at an enquiry and the Inspector criticised the Council's decision - his decision was a close call in favour of the developer showing that Councillor's refusal has been reasonable. But the grounds Leeds Citizen reports are, to put it mildly, pretty weak (there may, of course, be more to them).

However. Leeds' problem is a direct consequence of the rUDP that members agreed. This released greenfield sites on the City's fringes in Phase 2 (after seven years) regardless of whether the key regeneration area - East & South East Leeds (EASEL) - saw its site developed. Those EASEL sites remain undeveloped but the Council can do nothing to stop the sites it identified elsewhere being developed. The advice being offered by officers is a direct consequence of the plan drawn up by those officers and agreed on by Councillors.

Currently Bradford is drawing up its Local Development Framework (LDF) Core Strategy and, in doing so, is sleepwalking into the same problem. Unless release of later phase land is predicated on the development of regeneration sites and the building out of existing permissions, the developers will simply wait seven years for the chance to develop nice greenfield sites in Airedale, Wharfedale and Thornton. And the Council will find itself in the same position as Leeds - eager to respond to local objectors yet unable to do so without it costing the Council (and the taxpayer) a load of money.

Perhaps Councillors and officers in Bradford might care to ponder on this problem before succumbing to the "help, help, there's a housing crisis" line peddled by planning lead Val Slater.


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