Blog: 21 March 2016Meeting the Development Needs of Yorkshire

James Hall

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James Hall

Planning Director

Leeds office

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After seven years at the helm of the Barton Willmore Leeds office, I have been right in the heart of the development industry, delivering consents for major schemes. Consequently, as well as inevitably, this has meant I’ve been involved with related infrastructure provision. There are some very clear priorities emerging.

Undoubtedly, there is cross-party support for increasing housing provision across the region now, with most authorities accepting the need to up their game and allocate more land for housing alongside employment, leisure, retail and other uses. We need to be delivering all types and tenures of housing, including starter homes and privately rented if we are to meet the challenging targets set by 2028. This is not easy politically, and in many cases often involves Green Belt review. Indeed, some councils have had to restart their plan-making process (e.g. York, Harrogate, Doncaster, and Hull), others have had to grapple with cross-boundary issues (e.g. Leeds, Bradford, Kirklees, and Selby). However, the speed of plan making needs to be stepped up immediately, with the next couple of years being critical.

In my view, the national level NPPF has worked in that it presents a clear presumption in favour of sustainable development, giving developers confidence to proceed and backed up by numerous Secretary of State decisions for housing and other uses to give it clout.

Furthermore, the Government seems to be moving towards devolving decision making and budgets to City Regions, providing they have strong leadership and a clear strategy. Yorkshire needs to embrace this therefore, set aside political differences and in-fighting, and seize what is on offer. This is the time to draft a Spatial Plan for the area, filling the hole left by the Regional Spatial Strategy, then direct funds to the main projects. Otherwise there is a risk of being left behind.

In order to deliver the development in a sustainable way, stakeholders need to think carefully about the necessary physical and social infrastructure. This includes transport, highways, utilities, schools and other community facilities. Most of the major urban extensions we are engaged in through masterplanning need road improvements, bus route enhancements, new or expanded schools and upgrades to drainage, power and water networks. They also often come with a mix of uses, local centres and leisure/play facilities. The Thorpe Park expansion and the East Leeds/Whinmoor corridor are classic examples, similarly Skelton Gate/Temple Green in the Aire Valley.

Decision makers in the region need to step back and consider development matters more holistically, so as to avoid the bizarre situation where we now have five local authorities in Yorkshire considering small new settlements. Our own work on Garden Cities for the Wolfson Prize clearly shows the optimum size to be far beyond that proposed in each case.

These are exciting times, but also critical in terms of shaping sustainable growth in the next 25 years in the region.

As published on Yorkshire Insider (online) here.

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