By Hayley Longster
There are currently 17,000 approved planning applications for housing in Leeds that are not in the process of being built, to the frustration of Leeds Council.
Some of these have been on the books since the recession and have therefore not made any progress since 2007.
The key frustration is the fact that the Council are looking to build new council houses and are struggling to find suitable sites.
Coun Andrew Carter said: “It’s absolutely unacceptable that a group of private developers can effectively sit on these sites indefinitely. Until they’re made to declare publicly all the sites they have options on as well as those with approved planning permissions, nothing will change.”
The frustrations were aired while discussing the Council Housing Growth programme in today’s Executive Board meeting, and the many obstacles the Council faces in selecting sites on which to build new council housing.
Large developers have often already earmarked attractive brownfield sites for their own use but are not required to officially declare such intentions.
Even when planning approval is formally granted, it often takes years for building work to begin.
Councillors suggested that central government’s approach to the housing shortage, which usually involves relaxing planning regulations on developers in the name of increasing supply, is flawed.
Acquiring land from private owners and developers on which to build is a desirable option, but can only be achieved if working partnerships can be formed. This is made increasingly difficult by a lack of transparency regarding optioned sites.
Councillor Carter also expressed concerns that a proper period of public consultation regarding sites for development should be adhered to. He suggested the standard 6 week period be extended to eight weeks and a concerted effort be made to publicise the fact that plans were open to public scrutiny.
Despite these difficulties, the Housing Growth Plan was approved as the Council’s official line on improving the housing situation in Leeds.
Councillors will also form a joint party lobby in order to try and appeal for a change in the law regarding developers declaring their optioned sites.