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Developing brownfield land is at the core of Leeds' ambition

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As one of the fastest-growing cities in the UK, Leeds has an economy worth £18bn which has grown at a rate of almost 40% in the past decade.

Leeds City Council has set out its ambition to become the best city in the UK, with good growth and sustainable development at the heart of this. Leeds aims to be a welcoming and compassionate city with a strong economy offering opportunities for all.

Housing is a key element of this ambition, and the council is firmly committed to working in partnership with developers, housebuilders and stakeholders to meet housing need now and into the future in a planned and sustainable way.

Hunslet Mill

Developing brownfield land is at the core of Leeds’ ambition

Hunslet Mill

Building on its proud tradition of being among the birthplaces of the industrial revolution, Leeds has considerable brownfield capacity and the development plan for the city has a clear brownfield-first policy.

The statistics back up this policy as since 2004 more than 75% of all new housing in the city has been on brownfield land. This is continuing with the adopted Leeds Core Strategy.

The council is working to deliver more than 40,000 new homes on brownfield land by 2028, taking an innovative and flexible approach including using its own land to work with developers to bring vacant sites and buildings to the market for new housing developments, as well as supporting wider investment including a groundbreaking natural flood management scheme.

As well as working with volume housebuilders, the council has also created a private sector acceleration programme which has assisted small and medium enterprises deliver 28 previously stalled brownfield sites creating 1,889 new housing units.

Reflecting its proud history there are more than 3,000 listed buildings in Leeds so developing these brownfield sites requires a varied and flexible approach. This is paying off though as the council has worked with developer JM Construction to refurbish the historic Grade II and II* Listed -Hunslet and Victoria Mills which had laid vacant for more than 30 years. Once complete, 300 new apartments will have been delivered on the edge of the city centre.

The jewel in the city’s economic future is South Bank Leeds – a 253 hectare brownfield area which will double the size and economy of the city centre, delivering more than 8,000 new homes and 35,000 jobs. -Significant progress has already been achieved, including a groundbreaking community-led sustainable housing scheme on the River Aire led by CITU.

Significant work has also gone into maximising the development and growth opportunities around the remodelling of Leeds station and the arrivals of HS2 and Northern Powerhouse Rail, not just for Leeds but for the wider Leeds City Region economy.

Leeds’ rapid economic growth is to be welcomed but with that comes significant challenges as to how best support it and provide the new homes needed.

In Leeds we are firmly committed to a brownfield-first planning policy, not only to protect our green belt but to ensure we use sustainable regeneration as the means of unlocking the city’s economic potential.

We have a positive working relationship with volume housebuilders, but we are flexible enough to know we need to continue looking for innovative ways of making such areas appealing for other developers too, be they institutional investors or SMEs or niche companies such as CITU focusing on sustainable eco-housing.

Keeping the balance right in the city centre in terms of private rental accommodation is something we are working very hard on, and the potential of the South Bank is enormous for decades to come so it too is at the core of our thinking as we get on with preparing for the remodelling of Leeds station and the opportunities high-speed rail will offer.

Richard Lewis (Lab), executive member for regeneration, transport and planning, Leeds City Council

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