Government proposals to overhaul planning laws in the UK could lead to increased development on green field sites and the green belt regardless of the wishes of local people according to a Leeds City Council report.
Other concerns raised in the report about the proposals include a potential reduction in the ability of local planning authorities to control development and a failure to recognise the regeneration challenges faced by major cities like Leeds.
The report forms the council’s response to the draft National Planning Policy Framework, which has already come in for serious criticism from a range of organisations including The National Trust.
As a city made up of many different settlements, each with their own distinct character, it is really important that local communities in Leeds have a say in how development takes place. This top-down national framework could undermine the role local people have in the planning system.
At the heart of the government’s proposals is a presumption in favour of sustainable development. It is unclear how this will be defined, making it difficult to demonstrate that planning applications are unacceptable. This, combined with a lack of clarity and consistency throughout the draft framework will make it more difficult to tackle a range of planning issues.
The report also criticises the lack of recognition of the economic regeneration and urban renewal priorities of major cities like Leeds. By relying on “market signals” to determine where development should take place there is a risk that developers prioritise more profitable green field sites over previously developed land and brown field sites.
Under the proposed framework councils will also have to allocate an additional 20 per cent of land towards housing supply than under existing rules. This increase is combined with the refusal to allow “windfall” housing and student housing to count towards new housing quotas.
The report says that if implemented these changes would put the council under increasing pressure to build on green field and green belt sites. It is concerned the overall thrust of the proposals is to support development even if it could affect conservation special landscape areas.
Cllr Richard Lewis, executive board member for development and economy, said:
“As a city we have a clear vision about our future and where future development should happen. There is a real need to build additional housing for the future, but it must be part of the vision we have for our city, our economy, our environment and our communities.
“We have a strong and diverse economy in Leeds and part of our success has been that we have been able to develop that while protecting the city’s heritage and its green spaces. That means having a balanced approach to planning which takes into account economic, social and environmental considerations.
“We want to be able to continue that work in the future. As they stand these proposals will take much of that control away from us and make it harder for us to develop the city in the way we would like.
“If the government is serious about localism it should support local decision making instead of making it harder for local people to have their say.”
Notes to editors:
1.The new framework has reduced more than 1000 pages of planning guidance to little more than 50 and covers virtually all planning guidance.
2.“Windfall” housing is housing which has not been planned but is built on land which becomes available unexpectedly, such as when a factory closes down.