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High Court challenge to Leeds Site Allocations Plan; clarity or uncertainty?


Latest High court ruling has implication for Leeds house building

The High Court handed down the long awaited judgement in relation to relief on 7 August 2020, following its earlier finding that the Leeds Site Allocations Plan (SAP) was unlawful.

In June the Aireborough Neighbourhood Development Forum succeeded in their challenge to the SAP in the High Court, in a dispute over Green Belt release for housebuilding. They claimed the allocations for residential development were legally flawed.

The Court found that there were two areas where the Inspector’s reasoning was inadequate. One was in relation to the pro rata reduction of Green Belt allocations by Housing Market Characteristic Areas (a sub area approach) when it became apparent mid-way through the examination that less housing was needed and the plan period was curtailed to 2023. The other was the related issue of reasons for concluding there were exceptional circumstances warranting the removal of land from the Green Belt for housing.

In addition the Court concluded that there was a mistake by the Inspectors in assessing the effect of updated figures on committed supply, leading to an error in the extent of GB land allocated for housing.

At the heart of the matter was the difficulty of advancing a SAP to deliver housing in a Core Strategy that was itself being revised almost in parallel with that SAP, to a materially lower housing figure in a Core Strategy Review.

The relief ordered by the Court is that all the housing and mixed use allocations in the SAP that were previously in the Green Belt (see list here) are remitted to the Secretary of State for independent examination. The Court has indicated that the same Inspectors can carry out that process. It is likely that there will need to be some main modifications as a consequence.

In reality the reassessment process will involve taking into account all up to date circumstances, including the now adopted Core Strategy Review (with its lower housing figure), the up to date position with regard to permissions and committed supply and the fact that the SAP has to be replaced by April 2023, at the latest. How Leeds City Council and the Inspectors propose to address this is not yet clear. It will however have to be undertaken alongside the Council working on the review of the SAP to extend it beyond 2023, presumably to the end of the CSR period (2033).