Leeds Local Plan Update consultation – what’s it about?

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What is the Leeds Local Plan Update (LPU) all about?

The adopted Local Plan is being updated with a narrow focus on the urgent need for adaption and mitigation of the impacts of climate change, whilst ensuring the delivery of sustainable development within the Leeds Metropolitan District. Whilst narrow, the proposed changes represent a significant ‘sea change’ in the application of planning policy in the City, that the property market needs to understand, assess and where necessary respond.

It is the second stage of consultation (Regulation 19) on these issues and follows an initial consultation (Regulation 18) last year. The draft LPU and supporting evidence is due to be released for consultation later this month.

So what’s proposed?

It’s focussed on the climate change agenda, but the LPU covers a wide range of policy updates, including those aimed at carbon reduction in building construction/operations and through a new spatial approach to development (20 minute Neighbourhoods). It will also apply a greater level of development management in seeking to reduce flood risk and a greater emphasis on green infrastructure (including biodiversity). It also takes on the Government’s call for “Building Better, Building Beautiful”.

It does warrant a careful understanding by the development industry, as it will have a major bearing on future development in Leeds, especially in light of development viability issues. I would recommend engagement in the Plan for anybody who has current or future development interests in the City.

Local Plan Update 1: Publication Draft Policies and Supporting Text

What’s not to like about the emerging LPU?

Not much to my mind to be honest, especially in its ambition to ensure all future development responds positively to the national climate change agenda and City Council’s aims to be carbon zero by 2030. However, I say that with an element of caution, as it is likely to have a major bearing on development viability.

Is it viable to make development carbon zero?

I guess this is going to be the thorniest issue with the Update, and there will be a need to carefully balance the Council’s virtuous aims and development viability, if the City is to maintain its current growth trajectory (and its future economic growth objectives). Although the policy updates have been viability tested, the Council have not yet formally released that viability assessment (it will be released as part of the consultation)  and I’m sure (and I would encourage) it will be carefully scrutinsed by the property industry. After all, with rising construction costs and the cost of an ever-expanding range of planning obligations in the City and CIL costs, something will have to give.

Will this mean adjusted expectations on land value and investment returns, or the need to review the Council’s s106 ‘asks’ or a review of the CIL charging? Time will only tell.

The Government are already looking at a new streamlined Infrastructure Levy , although the details are sketchy at best. Regardless of this review, the LPU will need to be assessed under the current position where s106 and CIL are both sought in the City.

The Infrastructure Levy would simplify CIL, S106 and affordable housing into a single value-based tax’

Chris Wheaton MRICS, Senior Director, Quod

What’s next?

This Update will set the foundation for a fuller review of polices in the rest of the adopted Local Plan which will start in earnest in 2023. Notably this will involve a new spatial strategy (centred on the 20 minute neighbourhood concept),  setting ambitious new housing targets at a level significantly greater rate than presently planned (and in fact ever delivered in the City) so long as the Government don’t meddle with the Standard Method again (there have been hints that they are doing so!), and identifying employment growth, all of which will require another review of the Green Belt boundaries.

Lots of questions and with many different answers for a range of projects. As always, we’d be pleased to help you answer those questions and do get in touch with my colleagues or me at Quod if you want to understand more about the Plan, how you can engage in it and what it could mean for your project.

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