Earlier this week I started writing an article about Leeds City Council’s current Site Allocations consultation ‘Your city, Your plan’. You won’t have seen it yet, as I haven’t managed to finish it.
I read the Council press release and it looked pretty dry and full of jargon. I though I must be able to liven it up a bit and maybe talk about how the plans affect our part of the city. So I started reading … and looking at the interactive maps … and trying to figure out the colour coding. I kept having to go back to check the definitions of ‘Identified for housing’ and ‘Allocated for housing’ as I looked at sites that I am familiar with but didn’t seem to fit naturally into that category.
I like to think I know my way round the planning system. I’m no expert, but I think I understand the general principles, I’ve been on some community training, I’ve read a few planning applications, even been to some Plans Panel meetings. I wondered how someone who has never engaged with the planning system would be able to respond to this consultation.
The Council has to plan ahead and set a framework within which individual housing schemes can be judged. It is currently looking ahead 13 years to 2028, by which time it has calculated the city will need an extra 66,000 homes. There’s been some controversy about this number, but it seems to me that whether it’s through economic growth or just sorting out the housing crisis, that’s not an unreasonable figure to aim for.
It then has to identify sites where these homes could be built. One of the big complicating factors in the consultation is that the Council isn’t going to build them (well only a very small percentage). In the main they will be built by private developers. So the designation of a site for housing doesn’t necessarily mean housing will be built on it, and it gives no indication of when any building will take place.
For each site, a developer will have to come up with a scheme and apply for planning permission in the usual way. They may get it, or they may not depending on whether the scheme is suitable for the site. Alternatively they apply for permission to build something completely different, involving ‘change of use’ to office or factory or whatever.
So largely we are being asked ‘in principle’ would you like to see housing built on these particular sites?
Within the overall numbers the Council has to plan for certain types of specialist accommodation. For example many of the ‘allocated’ sites in Beeston are identified as suitable for older persons housing. Another group I was keen to check on was the Gypsy and Traveller community.
The Council seems to have approached this issue in a positive way. There has been consultation with Leeds GATE and the concept of negotiated stopping has been included in the plans. Sites are discussed sympathetically considering both the needs of travellers and the concerns of the settled community. Some of the numbers seem to have been achieved by regularising existing arrangements which seems a sensible approach, although it won’t address the need for more pitches in the area.
I came unstuck when I looked through the sites in detail. One caught my eye, the old Moorend training centre next to Tulip Retail Park in Hunslet. It’s where SLATE had their first shop. It’s identified on the map as ‘Protected Gypsy & Traveller site‘ but I couldn’t find any reference to it in the report.
There’s only one thing to do I’m going to have to go along to one of the public sessions and ask someone. There’s only one in our area – at Hunslet Parish Hall (I think they mean St Mary’s) on Church Street, next Wednesday (14 October) between 2-8pm.
If you can’t get to that event, there are others around the city including two at the Civic Hall in town. You can also comment online or in writing and the plans are available at libraries. It is an important consultation for the future shape of our city so however difficult to wade through the jargon, I do urge you to have your say.
Well, there we are, I seem to have written the article after all!
I’ll be back next week with more of my views from South of the River. If you’re on Twitter, you can follow me: @BeestonJeremy.