Warning over neighbourhood regime

The threat of developers bypassing residents' plans was among the issues that emerged at this year's Northern Growth Summit, says Richard Garlick.

Northern summit: discussions on growth. Vicky Matthers/ConPhotoMedia pic
Northern summit: discussions on growth. Vicky Matthers/ConPhotoMedia pic

Housebuilders will be tempted to ignore the neighbourhood planning process by the prospect of using other national planning policies to win permission on appeal for unallocated sites, Leeds City Council's chief planning officer said at a conference last week.

Phil Crabtree told delegates at the Northern Growth Summit, organised by Planning's sister title Regeneration & Renewal, that neighbourhood planning activity in Leeds was high, with ten neighbourhood areas already designated and five more in the pipeline. However, in a video interview with Planning, he said the development industry "had been singularly absent so far" from the process.

He said he hoped that housebuilders would eventually work through the neighbourhood planning process, but that they might be tempted to go direct to appeal by the demanding housing provision requirements that the National Planning Policy Framework imposes on councils.

The danger for Leeds City Council lay in the need for it to either have a five-year supply of housing land plus a buffer of either five per cent or 20 per cent, and the difficulty of achieving that "in this sort of market" with need of the scale that exists in the city, Crabtree said. "There will always be a temptation for the more aggressive landowners and developers to go straight to appeal and therefore bypass the more democratic parts of the process," he said.

Leeds City Council's draft core strategy, which it hopes will go to examination in the spring, plans for 70,000 dwellings between now and 2028. Crabtree described this as "the biggest ask of any local authority in the country".

Crabtree was speaking in the place-shaping workshop stream, sponsored by consultancy Savills. Earlier at the event, Pat Ritchie, the chief executive of the Homes & Communities Agency, England's housing and regeneration agency, had warned delegates that the shift in government focus from regeneration to growth would "pose some challenges for a number of areas in the north". She said the agency would have to take tough decisions when choosing whether to fund projects in areas of economic decline. But she said the agency continued to recognise that run-down towns "must not be left behind".

Elsewhere at the event, a senior civil servant acknowledged that some enterprise zones may need more help to achieve their aim of boosting economic growth. Ben Stoneman, policy team leader for enterprise zones at the Department for Communities and Local Government, said there were examples of enterprise zone success, but that he was seeing "more and more" sites "that may need a few more pieces of the jigsaw turned in their direction".

The summit was chaired by Professor Michael Parkinson of Liverpool John Moores University.

Regeneration & Renewal is supporting the Institute of Economic Development's annual conference on 27 November in Westminster.

For details, visit www.economicdevelopmentconference.com.

For more on the Northern Growth Summit click here.

Richard Garlick Editor, Planning.

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