Campaigners are calling for an urgent review of a 70,000 housing target for the Leeds area, after evidence that the figures were based on false statistics.
Leeds City Council has admitted to using flawed statistics to set the housing figure, according to the campaign group WARD ( Wharfedale and Airedale Review Development).
Now the group is writing to the council and the government inspector calling for an urgent review to prevent the core strategy being declared unsound and putting the whole of the wider Leeds area at risk from predatory developers.
WARD says the council has admitted a miscalculation in a letter from the Deputy Chief Planning Officer Steve Speak to the inspector Anthony Thickett, who is currently considering the Leeds Core Strategy.
The letter dated June 3 was sent after the release of the ONS 2012-based population projections in May.
The most up to date figures show an estimated population growth of 81,800 from 2012 to 2028 - compared to the 2008-based estimate of 144,500 for the same period.
Mr Speak says the projections "confirm that the Leeds population has been mis-estimated in the past and start from a base population of 757,700 people in 2012. For comparison the 2008-based projections started from a baseline population of 779,300 in 2008 and the 2010-based projections started from a base population of 780,900 in 2010."
WARD Chairman David Ingham said: "The admission of this miscalculation by LCC is confirmation that what WARD has been saying about the over-inflated housing target in the Core Strategy over the last three years has undoubtedly been proved true. The surprising fact is that Leeds are not asking the Inspector to review the 70,000 figure in the light of this new evidence. They are simply using this to justify the step-up procedure which proposes an annual build rate of 3,660 houses per year. This is absolutely diabolical.
"The WARD organisation feels, however, that the admission of this mistake by Leeds provides sufficient evidence for the Inspector to declare the plan unsound. This, however, would have a devastating effect on the area as it would leave the Leeds region open to severe predation by developers. The 70,000 target, if left un-reviewed, will also lead inevitably to the loss of important greenfield/greenbelt sites across the city – as WARD has been only too keen to point out over the past three years.
"Accordingly, these recently published ONS figures, rubbishing the need for a 70,000 target, support the assertion that an urgent review of this figure is required and by so doing the necessity to declare the plan unsound may be averted. Leeds should go further than simply asking these recent statistics to be used as justification for the step-up, they should seek an urgent review of the Core Strategy housing targets before it is ruled upon by the Inspector.
"WARD will be writing to Leeds City Council and to the Inspector using this new evidence and Leeds own miscalculation of the figures as a reason to re-open the Core Strategy examination in public session on housing targets. WARD strongly urges all local action groups to do the same. If unsuccessful, WARD will again make a challenge to the figures on the grounds that the use of inaccurate data makes the entire plan unsound and that the Core Strategy should be rejected on these grounds."