Response to new figures on household projections for Leeds
Leeds City Council has made the following response to recent Office for National Statistics (ONS) figures released by the Department for Communities and Local Government on projected future housing need in the city.
The ONS figures from 2012 state that the number of households in Leeds is projected to rise by 44,500 from 2012 to 2028. Leeds City Council’s Core Strategy approved last year has identified a net figure of 70,000 new homes needed to be provided over the same period.
When considering these figures, Leeds City Council wishes to clarify the following points:
- The 44,500 ONS figure and the council’s net figure of 70,000 new homes needing to be provided are based on significantly different criteria so a direct comparison would be inaccurate.
- As the government advises in its own national planning guidance, these figures are the base starting point for projections of housing need, and do not take into account a wide range of factors including demand generated by future economic growth and job creation. The ongoing strength of the Leeds economy, further enhanced by its role at the heart of the Leeds City Region, means the city is expected to generate 56,000 new jobs by 2031 attracting a considerable number of new residents.
- The latest ONS figures are based on the assumption that demographics and trends from 2007-12 will be repeated up to 2028. This was a period of recession when housebuilding slowed considerably. Due to the economic recovery and expected continued growth in Leeds the housing industry is expected to operate at a significantly higher level of productivity.
- The council’s net figure of 70,000 new homes needing to be provided was endorsed in 2014 by government inspector Mr Anthony Thickett after a lengthy public examination. During that process the council did express concerns around a slowing of projected household growth but Mr Thickett was not minded to lower the housing requirement because of his concerns at projecting forward the impacts of the recession.
- The council indicated during the public examination it would continue to monitor the evidence underpinning the projected levels of housing need, and when the Core Strategy was announced the council confirmed it would be reviewed within three years.
Leeds City Council executive member for neighbourhoods, planning and personnel Councillor Peter Gruen said:
“Since we received these figures we knew they would be likely to generate considerable interest in relation to our own Core Strategy housing projections. That is why it is important people consider them in their full context – the 44,500 figure is based on a very different criteria. It is very much a minimum base to start from, and with the continuing growth of the Leeds economy the real housing need figure up to 2028 will be considerably higher.
“We have always said we will follow the evidence and act if action needs to be taken, so we are now looking fully at these latest figures and evaluating the implications of what they mean. Our Core Strategy remains in place and we continue to work on preparing our draft Site Allocations Plan for new housing around the city, and we do have a number of sites around the city which have widespread support which can be brought forward for early approval. Following our thorough evaluation of the ONS figures we are fully prepared to consider all options available to us if any alterations are considered appropriate and necessary.”
Key questions & answers
Q: When was the council made aware of the latest ONS figures ?
A: The figures from 2012 were released by the DCLG on February 27 2015, six months later than expected. The figures are released every two years, so the next set will be based on information up to 2014 and will be expected to be issued in 2016.
Q: Why are they so much lower than the council’s own figures ?
A: As explained above, the two sets of figures have been produced using very different criteria so should not be directly compared. The ONS figures are minimum need figures based on a period when the national economy was in recession and the construction industry suffered a major downturn as a result. The council’s government-approved assessment takes into account a range of other key factors, including the expected increase in housing demand due to sustained economic growth in Leeds.
Q: Do these new numbers mean the Core Strategy is wrong and needs to be reviewed ?
A: No, the Core Strategy was approved by the government after lengthy consultation and public examination periods. The council committed to reviewing the strategy within the first three years to ensure it remains accurate and appropriate for the needs of the city.
Q: What does this mean for the draft Site Allocations Plan on new housing locations ?
A: Work continues on preparing the plan for public consultation later in the year, but should it need to be altered to take into account any changes deemed appropriate following analysis of the latest figures the council has the ability to do so.
Q: Does this mean if less houses are needed less green belt areas will need to be built on ?
A: Only after a full analysis of the implications of the ONS figures will any recommendation on changes to potential housing locations be announced by the council.
Q: What happens next ?
A: The council is currently undertaking a full evaluation of the ONS figures, and will communicate any changes recommended to be made as a result at the appropriate time.
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