The report of the Chief Planning Officer sets out the initial findings of Local Plan Update (LPU) statutory consultation, which took place from the 19th July – 13th September 2021, as well as key themes of the LPU consultation by focusing on three broad areas. Members are requested to provide comments on the themes emerging from the statutory consultation.
Further to the minutes of the meeting held 9th September 2021, the report of the Chief Planning Officer sets out the initial themes of the Local Plan Update (LPU) statutory consultation, which took place 19th July – 13th September 2021. The consultation provided stakeholders with the opportunity to comment on the subject and proposed objectives of the LPU scope (agreed by Executive Board and as advised by DPP). The five broad topic areas include 1) Carbon Reduction, 2) Flood Risk, 3) Green Infrastructure, 4) Placemaking, and 5) Sustainable Infrastructure.
The Group Manager (Policy and Plans) introduced the report and provided the Panel with a PowerPoint Presentation on the scope of the consultation, as well as a summary of the issues covered in the responses analysed so far. It was noted that there was general support across all 5 areas, with comments received regarding expansion of the scope to include housing numbers and distribution, affordable housing, and employment land.
Next steps will focus on undertaking a detailed analysis of data to help inform an assessment of reasonable alternatives to meet objectives of the Plan and the full analysis of the representations will be presented as a full Report of Consultation at the next DPP meeting in January 2022.
General discussions covered the following topics:
Blue Infrastructure – it was noted that clarity is needed on the role of blue infrastructure as part of a combined ‘Green and Blue Infrastructure’ topic. Members raised concern regarding the need to address sewerage issues, particularly in terms of new developments and exploring the idea of using canals / rivers as a mode of transport to help towards tackling the Climate Emergency. Members were informed that although there are limitations in terms of the planning system, colleagues are working with agencies to mitigate sewage issues.
· Trees – the importance of ensuring mature trees are protected and treated as if they have a Tree Preservation Order (TPO), as well as the protection of grass verges. Officers confirmed there is an issue nationally, and TPOs are established on the basis of amenity value of a tree(s) rather than the amount of carbon they produce. The Panel supported work to be carried out to enhance the carbon status on existing mature trees.
· Biodiversity – concerns were relayed regarding viability and the production of net gains offsite and the need to strengthen policy wording to better enable members determining future planning applications, as well as engaging and emphasising the importance of delivering onsite to developers. It was noted that additional work will be required beyond the provisions of the Environment Bill to ensure delivery occurs onsite. It was suggested that there should be a focus on alternative environmental interventions such as wetland, for better biodiversity options.
· Food production – protecting the quality of agricultural land and encouraging landowners to bring livestock on their land. It was confirmed that there are limitations in terms of what the planning system can do with agricultural landowners and there is further work required on what the planning system is able to do. Issues with urban food production were relayed in terms of contamination and the impact this has on biodiversity and amenity space.
· Green space – a number of suggestions were put forward in terms of utilising spaces, such as using rooftops to place greenhouses and roof gardens to produce food.
· Presumption against car usage – clarity was sought on the definition and a suggestion was put forward that there should be a hierarchy including pedestrians, cyclists and cars as it was recognised that there is good public transport provision in most inner-city areas, but there is still a need to access cars for employment and for people with disabilities citywide. Whilst the consensus was that developments should be less dependent on parking facilities, other services such as public transport and access to services required change.
· Digital Connectivity – members were informed about the commitment from the Government to help towards installing new gigabit-capable connections for home and businesses in rural locations and the support towards digital connectivity in the NPPF. However, it is left to the discretion of developers; it was considered that new policy may have a role in ensuring high standards of connectivity in Leeds until new legislation is enacted.
· Mass Transit – ensuring future considerations work around existing transport routes
A couple of members discussed concerns regarding a shortfall in employment land and expressed the importance of including this in the scope. Panel members were advised that LPU (1) focused on new / revised policies to help tackle the climate emergency and matters such as Housing Requirement, Affordable Housing Employment Requirement, Local and Town Centres, Housing and Employment Allocations Minerals & Waste and Gypsies & Travellers will be considered as part of LPU (2). It was also confirmed that the Spatial Development Strategy will be revisited at a later date and is yet to be determined whether spatial distribution of growth will be considered as part of LPU (2).
Panel members commended the work undertaken so far on the consultation and emphasised the need to expedite establishing policies despite drivers for change such as COP26, Planning Reforms and the Environment Bill. It was acknowledged there is a clear opportunity to move things along positively and the comments received will help shape robust policies in relation to the topic areas.
RESOLVED – To:
a) note the contents of the report, together with comments raised on the emerging themes during discussion of this item.
b) note the progress so far, and the intention to receive a full Report of Consultation at the DPP meeting to be held January 2022.