AIREBOROUGH campaigners are celebrating after a high court judgement which could save green belt sites across Leeds.

Mrs Justice Lieven has thrown Leeds City Council’s long-term housing blueprints into doubt, deciding the authority’s list of green belt housing sites should be sent back to the government for further examination.

It follows a legal challenge to the council’s site allocations plan from Aireborough Neighbourhood Development Forum, which claimed there was an “error of law” relating to potential green belt housing sites.

A total of 37 sites will now need to be sent back to government for review. Mrs Justice Lieven said she made the decision despite the council’s claims it would cause them “enormous” administrative problems and expense.

Aireborough Neighbourhood Development Forum had mounted a legal challenge to aspects of the SAP after launching a crowdfunding appeal.

After the latest decision forum chairwoman Jennifer Kirkby said: "We congratulate the Judge on what we believe is a very wise judgement. We are also pleased that LCC does still have a workable SAP, and that the City still has the ability to be plan-led if they truly want to be.

She said: "All the Green Belt sites in the Leeds SAP have now been put back in the Green Belt (list) until such time as any case for the exceptional circumstances to change the boundary has been officially approved. The Judge said she had found a number of errors of law in the SAP and that this affected all the allocated Green Belt sites in Leeds, not just those in Aireborough.

"As a consequence the SAP 2019 will now be sent back (remitted) to the Secretary of State to appoint an Inspector to determine with LCC whether the Leeds housing need up to 2023 requires changes to the Green Belt, or not. The Judge said this was a matter of planning judgement for the relevant bodies; it was not for the Court to determine."

She added: "We are pleased that the judgement means that Leeds City Council does still have a Site Allocation Plan (SAP 2019), with a five year land supply, to guide development decisions – the only change has been the removal of the Green Belt sites. Without a SAP, the Council was fearful that developers would again bypass regeneration sites whilst ‘picking off’ desirable greenfield sites and appealing when they were turned down – a situation which has cost LCC an inordinate amount of money over the last decade."

She added: "Our view of the judgement is that it is both fair and sensible – we’d like to thank Mrs Justice Lieven and our legal team, barrister Jenny Wigley of Landmark Chambers, and Town Legal, London. Of course, this could not have been achieved without the help and support of a large number of people across Aireborough; we’d like to thank every person who donated, supported and generally gave encouragement through what has been a challenging time."

Responding to the judgement Leeds City Council said: "The Council will make proposals in due course. The appointed examination Inspector will then give consideration, report, and make any such recommendations to the Council, as appropriate.

"Consequently, all formerly adopted site allocations for housing, as well as mixed use allocations including housing, that were, immediately before the SAP’s adoption, in the Green Belt are now to be treated as not adopted. This relates to 37 sites. The remainder of the SAP remains adopted."

Chief planning officer David Feeney said: "Having a full plan in place is of the utmost importance to the council in order to avoid unplanned development, it is unfortunate therefore that there will be some further delay to achieving that while these sites are re-examined."