Leeds HMO Lobby


Leeds HMO Lobby

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Representation on
Core Strategy
Issues & Alternative Options Shaping the Future
October 2007


Question 1 Aims & Objectives Leeds HMO Lobby has three reservations.

(a) The Aims & Objectives of the Core Strategy embody inherent contradictions. These may be beyond the scope of the Core Strategy to resolve, but they should at least be recognised. On the one hand, the Strategy aims to 'protect the environment' and yet at the same time, 'promote economic success, with a high quality of life.' It is widely recognised that, within our current economic system, these aims are incompatible: what currently counts as economic success and quality of life depend upon exploitation of the environment which is unsustainable (a particular instance is Peak Oil, which implies fundamental modification of our economic system [not mentioned here]; the more general context is climate change [paras 3.5, 4.3-5], the consequence of demands for a 'high quality of life'). On the other hand, the Strategy aims to 'narrow the gap' and yet at the same time 'promote Leeds as competitive city.' But competition necessitates winners and losers - which of course establishes gaps. In the end, gaps are realised in the disadvantage of individuals. It is difficult to see how the city can be simultaneously competitive and egalitarian.

(a) The Aims & Objectives of the Core Strategy are explicitly broad-based. Again, this may be unavoidable in a Strategy for the whole city. Yet Shaping the Future emphasises the diversity of the District (e.g. para 3.4). The fact is, every locality faces its own opportunities and challenges, some certainly more extreme than others. But nowhere do the Aims & Objectives, or the Strategy in general, allow for the possibility of bottom-up, locally-initiated, fine-grain approaches to the city's development. The nearest we get is the brief section on Regeneration & Renewal (paras 4.29 - 31) which allows for just four localities.

(c) Both of the above points are manifest in Inner NW Leeds (where Leeds HMO Lobby represents all the local community associations, the residents who will benefit - or not - from the Core Strategy). In fact, the Strategy offers these communities little encouragement. Down-river from the city centre lies the physical peculiarity of Knostrop sewage works: this is a problem addressed in the Aire Valley Leeds Area Action Plan. But upstream lies the social peculiarity of studentification in & around Headingley - a problem to which the Core Strategy offers no solutions at all. In fact, NW Leeds accommodates three of the features which might make Leeds a 'competitive European city' - the Leeds-Bradford Airport, the Headingley Stadium, and the city's two (three?) universities. But each, in different ways, draws hugely on natural resources, and each inserts a wedge of disadvantage. On the one hand, the Airport makes massive demands for oil, and consequently contributes massively to climate change. On the other hand, the universities, by swamping the area with a transient population, massively damage community cohesion. (The Stadium makes a modest contribution in both respects.)

Leeds HMO Lobby concludes that the Aims & Objectives of the Core Strategy are inadequate to the needs of Inner NW Leeds. Further detail is given in our responses to Questions 5, 8, 9, 11 and 26.

Question 5 Built Environment The quality of places should be enhanced (a) by promoting the distinctive character of different areas (ii) throughout the District, and (b) by encouraging creative design in appropriate locations.

Leeds HMO Lobby recommends that the Core Strategy should encourage Neighbourhood Design Statements throughout the District, in order to encourage local communities themselves to promote the distinctive character of their areas.

Question 8 Regeneration Priority Areas Additional criteria should be used to identify regeneration areas.

The criteria given all concern the characteristics of established populations (income, health, education, employment, etc) and their environment (housing, dereliction, etc). What they don't include is the impact of demographic imbalance. Leeds HMO Lobby recommends that another criterion is added: Extreme demographic imbalance. Demographic imbalance could be to do with age (some towns have a dominance of elderly people; much of Inner NW Leeds has two-thirds young adults). It could be to do with transience (this affects the city centre; again, Inner NW Leeds has a two-thirds transient population). Or it could be to do with seasonality (this especially affects seaside towns or rural villages; but two-thirds of Inner NW Leeds population is seasonal). In fact, Inner NW Leeds suffers a triple imbalance. These characteristics impact on every other aspect of life in Inner NW Leeds, the place and its culture, economy, environment, community, etc.

Question 9 Regeneration Areas The criteria listed do not capture all the reasons for loss of cohesion and sustainability in local communities, which therefore need regeneration or restoration.

Leeds HMO Lobby recommends that Inner NW Leeds (especially the Area of Housing Mix) should be identified as a regeneration priority. Socially, it has the worst burglary problem in the city. Environmentally, it has the worst recycling rate in Leeds. Economically, it has more controls than any other suburb (Cumulative Impact Policy, Direction on Letting Boards, DPPO, Area of Housing Mix, etc). The collapse of community cohesion is evident in the worst electoral turnout in the city (below 20%) [see para 4.78]. The Lobby advocates an Area Action Plan for Inner NW Leeds.

Question 11 Affordable Housing

The options given for supply of affordable housing all concern new-build. But one significant factor contributing to the reduction of available housing and to the reduction in its affordability, is the impact of second homes. These are normally associated with rural locations (and there may indeed be some second homes in the rural parts of the District). But in Leeds, second homes are primarily an urban phenomenon. Probably some 5,000 houses in & around Headingley have been converted in the last decade to seasonal second homes for students - by landlords, by buy-to-let investors or by parents. This haemorrhage has both reduced the number of houses available as primary homes, and it has also exaggerated house prices in the locality. Competition from alternative accommodations for students (purpose-built developments) is destabilising this market. Leeds HMO Lobby recommends that re-conversion of second homes is encouraged as a contribution to increasing the supply of affordable hosing in Leeds.

Question 26 Education The provision of high quality education can be supported by all three measures listed.

In addition, Leeds HMO Lobby recommends that the HEIs in Leeds be encouraged to increase local recruitment massively, for three main reasons -
# to help to narrow the gap between advantaged and disadvantaged people in the city;
# to reduce the damage to the environment consequent upon the annual migration of thousands of students into and out of Leeds; and
# to reduce demand by students for seasonal second homes, and the consequent loss of housing for residents and damage to cohesion in local communities.
To this end, colleges and universities should (a) make their facilities available for wider community use, and (c) new HE provision should be encouraged throughout the District (outside the Area of Housing Mix).

December 2007


Leeds HMO Lobby
email: hmolobby@hotmail.com website: www.hmolobby.org.uk/leeds