THE HOUSING target for Leeds is set to be slashed to less than 52,000 - and more than half its threatened areas of green belt could now be protected under proposals to be discussed in December.

The changes will go before the city council's executive board on December 13 and, if approved, will go out for consultation in the new year.

The proposals would bring the housing target down from 70,000 to 51,952 and would protect 33 housing sites in green belt areas for now, to allow the council to determine whether they are needed.

Areas of green belt which will not now be built on - at least in the short term - had been earmarked for more than 6,000 homes. A total of 533 of those homes would have been built in Aireborough.

The proposed revision to the Site Allocations Plan follows a technical review of green belt housing allocations carried out following a new suggested government methodology for calculating future housing figures.

In a statement the council said: "In light of potentially lower overall housing targets for Leeds, the council has taken stock of its approach to green belt release for housing development with the revised proposal seeing green belt land identified as being the locations for 6,450 future homes now being retained as green belt.

"These areas will remain in the Site Allocations Plan, but will not be released for development until the council has a revised housing requirement following its own Core Strategy Selective Review and can determine, at that time, whether release of further green belt land is necessary."

Leeds City Council executive member for regeneration, transport and planning Councillor Richard Lewis said: "Recent government announcements on housing has resulted in the council taking prudent and responsible steps to review this information and the implications for Leeds. Getting our long-term housing policy and direction planned in a clear and right way is essential for the future of our city and our communities. We have successfully struck a balance between allowing our city to grow and develop in a coordinated and fair way, meet the need for new homes across Leeds and ensure there is no unnecessary loss of green belt land.

“Based on this approach the council has taken stock of longer term allocations for housing in the green belt, with a view to protecting 33 housing sites, rather than releasing them from the green belt prematurely. This equates to nearly 55 per cent of the green belt sites currently allocated in the plan."

Leeds City Council chair of the development plan panel Councillor Peter Gruen said:"The Site Allocations Plan is currently at independent examination and the proposals to retain these sites in the green belt in the plan is a positive step on behalf of the council to respond to the government proposals, whilst progressing the SAP to adoption so as to give the long term planning certainty that this city needs."

He added: "This is a pragmatic and responsible approach to the plan in light of the changed circumstances which has the support of the planning inspectorate.

"Related to the Site Allocations Plan, the council continues to progress the Core Strategy Selective Review, to revise future housing targets for Leeds (for a new plan period of 2017-2033), which will also be subject to further public consultation in the new year."