Council says move will help protect greenfield sites after government abolishes spatial strategies

Leeds has become the first major northern city to scale back housebuilding plans after the abolition of Labour’s regional spatial strategies.

The council has confirmed plans to halve housebuilding targets, and said the move would help it to prevent greenfield development on the edge of the city.

The council rejected an appeal by the Home Builders Federation (HBF), which had argued that the decision would disadvantage non-homeowners and “the wider Leeds economy”.

The council voted to reject the 4,740-home annual target for new homes, contained in the adopted regional spatial strategy (RSS), and replace it with a target of 2,300 homes a year.

A report to the council’s executive said that without making this change the council would be unable to stop developers getting planning permission for greenfield sites.

Since the adoption of the RSS in 2008, the council has lost five appeals by developers against refused planning permissions, and is facing a further four.

Under Labour’s rules, councils have to demonstrate a five-year supply of land; if they do not developers can appeal against planning refusals. But the abolition of RSSs by communities secretary Eric Pickles has allowed councils to scale back these plans.

Leeds council said: “Housebuilders have been seeking to exploit the opportunity presented by the substantially increased housing targets in RSS to challenge the council’s stance.”
The HBF said the target would not help the 30,000 people on housing waiting lists in the city.

Leeds’ decision to scale back plans follows similar decisions by a number of councils across the south of England.

Aylesbury Vale council, which is part of the Milton Keynes and South Midlands growth area, wrote to developers to tell them it intended to halt the development of its core strategy until the government had made its housing policy clear.