Inspector warns Leeds over local plan's affordable housing and traveller policies

Leeds City Council has been warned by an inspector that its key planning document will not pass examination because of its policies on affordable housing and traveller sites.

Leeds City Hall
Leeds City Hall

Leeds’ draft core strategy sets out development in the city up to 2028 including the provision of 70,000 new homes.

Following sessions on the strategy’s affordable housing and gypsy and traveller site policies held last month, inspector Anthony Thickett wrote to the council expressing his concerns.

The draft document’s policy H5 on affordable housing states that a supplementary planning document (SPD) rather than the core strategy would "provide up to date guidance on targets and provision" that would vary between areas.

It said the "broad range of provisions" would be a target varying from 5 to 50 per cent, with a threshold of between 10 and 15 homes above which affordable housing would be required.

But Thickett asked whether it was appropriate for affordable housing thresholds and targets to be set out in a supplementary planning document (SPD) rather than in the core strategy.

He said that the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) requires local planning authorities to set out their affordable housing requirements in their local plan, and these must include both the thresholds and the target sought.

He said: "SPDs are not local plans and I do not consider setting a range complies with this guidance, particularly a target which spans from 5 to 50 per cent.

"By failing to set the local standards for thresholds and targets, Policy H5 conflicts with national policy and is not sound."

Thickett called for the inclusion of "thresholds and targets" in the policy that are "supported by evidence regarding viability".

He also warned that the plan’s policy H7 on accommodation for gypsies and travellers also did not comply with government policy and was therefore not sound.

The policy proposes a target of 41 pitches for travellers and 15 plots for travelling showpeople.

Thickett said that recent work done by the council on assessing traveller need was "welcome" but on its own, he did not think it provided "a robust and reliable indicator of the full need for gypsy and traveller accommodation in Leeds".

He said an up-to-date Gypsy and Traveller Accommodation Assessment (GTAA) needed to be done and the strategy updated according to the results.

Thickett added: "As it stands Leeds City Council’s Core Strategy is not sound."

In response, Leeds’ deputy chief planning officer Steve Speak wrote that, pending the agreement of the council executive on 18 December, specific affordable housing targets in the plan based on the latest evidence would be included in the plan.

He added that "it is not considered that a full GTAA is appropriate" but it would work closely with local traveller groups to draw up evidence on need that would be compliant with the government’s latest policies.

Meanwhile, South Gloucestershire Council’s core strategy, which sets out development up to 2027, has been found sound by an inspector subject to a series of modifications and an early review.

The document provides for 28,300 new homes and three new ‘enterprise areas’ aiming to create thousands of new jobs.

Inspector Paul Crysell said in his report that the strategy lacks an up-to-date housing need study that complies with government policies. He called for a strategic housing market assessment to be carried out and taken into account in a replacement plan to be adopted "as soon as reasonably possible" by the end of 2018.

Crysell said: "My overall conclusion is that the plan provides a sensible strategy for the sustainable development of South Gloucestershire and is sound subject to the recommended modifications being made."

The plan will be considered for adoption at a full council meeting on 11 December.

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