To consider the report of the Chief Planning Officer that provides an update on the Legal Challenge to the Site Allocations Plan. The paper provides the latest information on the legal challenge and an outline of the immediate tasks required and the process moving forwards for consideration by Members.
Further to the minutes of the meeting held 29th July 2020, the report of the Chief Planning Officer invited Members to note the position on the Legal Challenge to the Site Allocations Plan (SAP). The report outlined immediate tasks required, along with the next steps in terms of moving forward.
The following had been appended to the submitted report:
o Approved Judgement (Appendix 1)
o The list of sites within the SAP affected by the High Court Judgement (Appendix 2)
o Former Green Belt housing allocations (Appendix 3)
o Table showing Outstanding Housing Capacity Pre Judgement and Post Judgement (Appendix 4)
The Team Leader (Policy and Plans) informed the Panel on the latest position of the Legal Challenge. It was noted that the High Court has now ordered relief. The effect on the relief is that all parts of the SAP which allocates sites for housing before the adoption of the SAP, were in the greenbelt (37 sites), will be remitted back to the Secretary of State and the Planning Inspectorate for further examination. It was confirmed that during the remittal process, the 37 sites will be considered as not adopted and will return to the Green Belt until re-examined. A number of implications had been identified as a result of the Judgement, and are as follows:
· The Council’s Five Year Housing Land Supply, has been reduced from 7.2 years to 6.1 years;
· The sites adopted in the SAP and Aire Valley Leeds Area Action Plan (AVLAAP) reduces the plan supply to 46,530 homes overall. The uneven distribution of outstanding housing capacity is a result of eight HMCAs in deficit of indicative targets and only three in surplus – windfall sites add to the supply, which currently totals 50,100 homes.
· Officers have commenced work on updating housing supply evidence – Strategic Housing Land Availability Assessment (SHLAA) and will identify any further modifications to the Plan;
· Policy HGR1 of the adopted SAP – given the Order to remit it is not possible to submit a review for housing allocations and safeguarded land by 2021. However, as part of the remittal process the Council will be required to review the additional need for housing allocations post 2023. It was confirmed that depending on their nature the proposals to the Secretary of State could include the deletion of Policy HGR1, removing the need for a SAP review.
It was confirmed that work updating the SHLAA was estimated to be concluded between 6-8 weeks. Following the conclusion of updating data and evidence, a report would be considered at the Development Plan Panel meeting in December 2020.
In responding to Members comments and questions, the following had been discussed:
· Review of HMCAs and target figures – a review at this stage was not required due to HMCAs being considered as part of the recent CSSR which was Adopted in 2019, and further focus was required on the re-examination of the 37 sites. The target figures are indicative, and there wouldn’t be a desire to create new targets through the SAP remittal.
· New Sites with Planning Permission (Windfall sites) (as set out in Appendix 4) – the table provided a factual statement outlining the overall balance of the surplus where the 37 sites had been taken out of the plan and started as of 2017. Additionally, officers confirmed specific information relating to new sites (not in the SAP/AVLAAP) would be provided to ward members.
· Re-allocation/remittal of the 37 greenbelt sites – when coming to a conclusion, the inspector would take into consideration the sustainability appraisal and infrastructure needs that take into account economic, environmental and social factors. “Exceptional Circumstances” are set out by national planning guidance for plan making, and the Council would need to set these out if the 37 sites were proposed to be removed from the Green Belt.
· The NPPF sets out that when dealing with planning applications, development in the Green Belt is inappropriate unless it can demonstrate “Very Special Circumstances” or falls into one of a number of exceptions. The onus lies with the developers to present any such circumstances subject to a planning application coming forth.
· Review of the Strategic Housing Market Assessment (SHMA) – the SHLAA is carried out on a yearly basis and considered the economic recession in relation to Covid-19. The SHMA had been considered as part of the CSSR, and was deemed sound at the time. There was no requirement to amend the housing requirement targets within the remittal of policies to the Planning Inspector, and the targets would last until the end of the Plan period. It was confirmed that work on the SHLAA would provide further clarity on the impact of the housing market in Leeds.
· The unbalance of housing allocations across the city and in particular the concerns in relation to city centre and urban area locations having a bigger surplus.
· Member engagement - ward member briefings would be undertaken subject to the scope of the SAP and it was reiterated that the officers would be working at a faster pace due to the priorities of the council in relation to outstanding matters in the SAP.
· The legal position and risks associated with developers who had taken out options of land to be developed, prior to the remittal of the 37 sites – the legal advisor to the Panel confirmed risks associated with the Local Plan prior to being adopted, still remained until the appeal period has expired and that no challenge has been forthcoming. It was confirmed that the appeal period had expired, and there had been no appeals 21 days following the relief decision.
a) To note the contents of the report and comments made during discussion of this item;
b) To note the intention to receive a further report at the Development Plan Panel meeting in December 2020, once evidence required for further examination has been updated.