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10 Jun
Leeds By Tim Green

SoS Confirmation of Leeds City Council Housing Land Supply Shortfall

A Secretary of State (SoS) decision (8 June) has confirmed a housing land supply shortfall in Leeds – with clear implications for the consideration of future applications for residential development in the short term.

The SoS agreed that the appeal by Miller Homes, for land at Boston Spa, should be allowed. The decision provides confirmation of the weight to be attached to Leeds Unitary Development Plan Review (LUDPR) policy N34; and draft neighbourhood plans, as well on the 5 year housing land supply position.

Policy N34 of the UDPR (Protected Areas of Search) still has to be taken into account as part of the development plan. The existence of an interim policy (subsequently withdrawn) to address a previous inadequacy in housing land supply has no influence on the weight to be given to Policy N34.  However, Policy N34 is not up-of-date, and paragraph 14 of the NPPF becomes applicable, making more acute the need for a five year housing land supply to be identified.

The lack of a five-year housing land supply heightens the focus on prematurity - pending the adoption of the Site Allocations Plan (SAP).  Allowing new housing on sites not allocated for such use could have implications for establishing site allocations going forward. However the SoS agreed that the appeal scheme is not so substantial, nor its cumulative impact so significant, that granting permission would undermine the plan-making process in terms of the scale, location or phasing of housing in the emerging SAP – especially given the expected timescale for SAP adoption.

Neither emerging neighbourhood plan has yet been subject to examination – consequently only limited weight can be assigned to them. Given the position on development plan policy, having regard to paragraph 216 of the NPPF, as the SAP and the Neighbourhood Plans are all still in preparation, and so are subject to unresolved objections and liable to change, the SoS attributes limited weight to them.

The housing requirement of 70,000 dwellings (2012-2028) is established in the Core Strategy; with an annual requirement of 3,660 in the first five years, stepping up to 4,700 from 2017/18 onward.  There is already a shortfall of delivery against the housing requirement even at the reduced stepped rate. The SoS agreed it is reasonable to expect the Council to accommodate this undersupply (2,363 dwellings for period 2012-2014) within the next five years.

Consequently, the SoS agreed overall that a 20% buffer would be appropriate in the light of a persistent under delivery of housing.  Importantly in the light of the increasing requirement and backlog, even when the lower figure (5%) is applied as a buffer the Council is unable to demonstrate a deliverable 5 year supply of housing land.

The SoS found the Council’s land supply figures to be overly optimistic; and was not satisfied that the housing supply sites put forward by the Council are all available, viable or achievable with a realistic prospect that the amount of housing required by the Core Strategy will be delivered within 5 years. Hence, the SoS agreed that, as there is not a deliverable five year housing land supply, in accordance with the NPPF the relevant policies for the supply of housing should not be considered up-to-date and planning permission should be granted unless any adverse impacts significantly and demonstrably outweigh the benefits.

This appeal provides a very useful context within which to promote residential development via planning applications, especially given the expected timetable for the adoption of the long awaiting Leeds Site Allocations Plan (SAP).

Images by Tim Green via flickr

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