Month: November 2015

Planning master class lifts the lid on the politics of housing delivery

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Around sixty people took part in Leeds Planning Network’s first Master Class on 19 November to debate the challenges of housing delivery in the region.

With plans announced for another 70,000 new homes in Leeds, decisions over housing are clearly contentious and this Master Class brought developers, planning practitioners and community activists together to shed some light on how the political controversy is managed.

Former Chief Planning Officer for Leeds, Phil Crabtree, and ex-Executive Member for Planning and Housing, Cllr Peter Gruen debated the issue with John Kirkham, strategic development manager for Persimmon Homes. The Master Class was chaired by Jane Kettle, housing researcher from Jay Consulting and was a research and enterprise event for the Planning, Housing and Geography group in the School of Built Environment and Engineering run through Leeds Beckett University’s Centre for Knowledge Exchange.




Setting the context for the debate, Phil Crabtree spelled out the potential impact of the new Housing Bill 2015 and pointed to the democratic deficit of automatic planning permission for housing on brown field sites. Phil argued that private house-builders could never meet all housing need and criticised the standards and quality of new private house-building while fewer affordable homes were being provided.

John Kirkham, from Persimmon Homes, argued that local politicians were unable to plan positively for housing growth and called for less regulation on private house-building. He suggested that house-building should be treated in the same way as major infrastructure decisions and was too important to be left to local communities. John countered claims that private house-builders are banking land and criticised the public sector for its lack of understanding of the needs of developers.

Cllr Peter Gruen told how Leeds had tried to make the planning system fairer and reduce suspicion between developers and the public sector. He argued that public support for house-building could be won if infrastructure needs of growth were met first. He voiced his support for increased house-building, built on brown field as well as green fields, and designed to a high standard. He spoke passionately about the continued need for social housing and announced that Leeds was building council housing for the first time in decades.

Questions from the floor raised issues around the calculation of housing need and the site allocations process. Cllr Gruen explained the need for a robust Local Plan to prevent speculative building and to ensure housing for future generations.  Discussion focused on the loss of green space, and the impact on affordability of the new starter home initiative. There was criticism, too, that the insistence of private house-builders on making 20 per cent profit meant that they avoided their commitment to provide affordable homes. There was agreement that a partnership was needed between the public and private sector and that political leadership was essential to meet housing need.

Please view the storify below for a selection of tweets and images from last Thursday’s event, #lpnleeds.

Future events from Leeds Planning Network include a neighbourhood planning workshop on 30 January and another Master Class on the Future of Affordable Housing on 17 March – put them in your diary!



Everyone’s a winner – creating social value in construction

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On the last Wednesday of October we hosted the second of this autumn’s constructing excellence breakfasts broadly themed around the 8 stages of the RIBA plan of works (RIBAPOW). In this session we explored social sustainability aspirations and how to identify, measure and put in place tools to monitor them, in line with Stage 1 of the RIBAPOW, Preparation and Brief.

First up to speak was Rob Wolfe, Executive Director at Renew who introduced his proposal for the new national Constructing Excellence social value task group which is being developed alongside CEYH. The group will sit under the wider Constructing Excellence procurement group (which coincidently next meets in our region on 8th December) with the aim of providing a forum to share best practice and provide practical advice and guidance to clients, contractors and central government on how to embed social value into construction projects.

The next step for the task group is to determine membership which will be done via an open call for expressions of interest. Once membership has been identified, the group will agree terms of reference and then identify three specific tasks to work on initially. Anybody who is interested in being involved should contact Rob via .

Rob then went on to talk about the work Renew have done in assisting regional businesses to develop a social value strategy. He advocated the importance of developing realistic and measurable KPI’s tailored to the needs of the project which can be monitored and evaluated throughout the project lifecycle. One of the examples he gave was the work Renew Leeds carried out with BAM on the First Direct Arena in Leeds (more info on Renew’s website here ). He also stressed the importance of mentoring, this should not be a parent-child relationship, both parties need to challenge each other along the way.

We then welcomed Ian Chapman, Regional Manager from Britcon who presented an excellent case study on how their social value strategy has evolved and its application to 3 to 4 current developments, including a project with our own Leeds Beckett University. Ian started his presentation by stating that traditionally their social value strategy has been driven by Considerate Contractors Scheme but they have since built up greater awareness from working with Renew and by being involved with frameworks, such as YorBuild, that have identify specific social value aspirations. This illustrated to me the important role that clients have in driving the improvement agenda for social value. Ian gave some great examples of where Britcon have set, met and exceeded social value KPIs on projects including;

  • Increased collaboration with supply chain on Tropical World development by 113%
  • Exceeded work experience targets by 400%
  • Increased engagement with local schools and colleges

Ian then went on to describe how Britcon are using their experience on these developments in other projects and perhaps most significantly how there has been a shift at Britcon from obligation (doing social value because our clients want it) to doing because they see real tangible benefits for their business and the wider community. This was a great presentation from Ian showing just how much can be achieved by just deciding to ‘DO’ and I think we can all learn something from that.

All the presentations can be viewed in our storify summary of the workshop below along with the best tweets and images from the session.

Our next event on 25th November will be looking at Stage 2 of RIBA plan of works and is all about specifications – Starting to Specify the Specifics of your Spec (try saying that after a few #BIMbeers!) Further details and booking here  

University workshop helps Leeds neighbourhoods plan their future

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Around 40 people from neighbourhood planning groups across Leeds took part in Leeds Beckett University’s first workshop on 7 November where the University’s planning lecturers put their expertise at the service of local communities.

The workshop was organised by Leeds Planning Network and the Centre for Knowledge Exchange and gave neighbourhood planning groups an opportunity to share experiences, discuss common issues and devise solutions and get the advice of experts.  Almost 20 neighbourhood groups were represented at the event, from both urban and rural areas, including those just setting out to plan their community’s future.

Quintin Bradley, Senior Lecturer in Planning at Leeds Beckett University, said: “Neighbourhood planning allows community groups and parish councils to shape the look and feel of their local areas and set the ground-rules for new development. This workshop was the first in a series of events in which Leeds Beckett planning staff aim to help local people in Leeds influence the future of their neighbourhoods.”

Participants at the workshop learned from Jill Bolton, from Linton parish council who now have a finished neighbourhood plan and are ready to submit it to popular referendum. Dawn Carey Jones, from Hyde Park explained how their neighbourhood plan aims to protect local green space and help improve the image of the area.  Doug Morley and John Urwin, from the Kippax neighbourhood plan, told how they consulted the community and kept public interest in the plan-making process. Howard Bradley talked of the challenges facing the Seacroft neighbourhood in shaping the future of their area.



Many common themes were identified, especially the length of time needed to draw up a plan and the difficulty in keeping local volunteers engaged. There are also key issues that neighbourhood planning cannot deal with. But participants agreed that neighbourhood plans should set out the community’s hopes and ambitions and make it clear what local people think. The neighbourhood plan-making process helps bring everyone together in a shared vision and it is a unique opportunity for local people to influence their communities.

A selection of the best images, tweets and comments from Saturday’s event can be found in the storify below. Copies of the speakers presentations can also be found underneath the storify.

The network’s next event will be our planning masterclass on Thursday 19th November. This event will give an overview of the housing policy including how housing delivery targets are set, sites allocated and how conflict and consensus are managed. With perspectives from the politicians, planners and house builders this is a unique opportunity to hear from decision makers about the negotiations that go to make up a local housing development plan, and to discuss house-building in Leeds and the Council’s standard for housing. Further details and booking can be found at the following link

Storify from 7th November Neighbourhood Planning Workshop



Hyde Park Neighbourhood Plan Presentation

Linton Neighbourhood Plan Presentation


Leeds Planning Network is developing new research and enterprise in spatial planning and housing for the School of the Built Environment & Engineering. Its services enhance Leeds Beckett University’s suite of undergraduate and postgraduate courses in town planning, housing, regeneration and urban management.