Councillors have deferred their decision on controversial plans to develop 267 homes at a Calderdale site.
Initially a majority of Calderdale Council Planning Committee members wanted to refuse the plans, submitted by Engle, Yorkshire Housing and Thornhill Estates for a 10.4 hectare plot at New Hey Road, Delf Hill, Shannon Road and Mount Lane, Brighouse.
But they were clearly warned by the council’s Service Lead for Planning, Richard Seaman, that if the decision was taken to appeal it would be very difficult to defend, and defeat could be costly.
Areas of concern highlighted at the meeting had been assessed by planning officers and on balance, under National Planning Policy Framework guidelines, they had concluded benefits of the scheme outweighed potential harm which might be done and were acceptable subject to conditions, he said.
To support a refusal at appeal, specific instances of where harm would outweigh benefit would have to be detailed – general concerns would not be enough, councillors were told.
Residents and councillors had earlier voiced their concerns about the plan.
Mr Starbrook said he leased a barn building which would be demolished and he objected to that and had concerns about diverse wildlife on site including bats and birds. “You’re destroying everything,” he said.
Alexander Watson said he had serious concerns about the impact on the area’s infrastructure including school places and GP surgeries. “The doctors are under so much pressure it’s unreal,” he said.
Greg Dickens questioned the methodology used for transport assessments, for example over estimated vehicle numbers which he said used a modelling sample that contained flats in city centres, less likely to generate vehicle movements. Highways officers said the council used its own data to work out trip rates and had looked at results for comparable sites.
Nick Midgley of Rastrick Neighbourhood Forum said the group felt they had been ignored and had not satisfactorily consulted.
Coun Chris Pillai (Con, Rastrick) summarised concerns about the suitability of access to the site, infrastructure concerns, parking concerns, pollution and air quality, loss of wildlife and a conservation area and the site’s proximity to a 78-home development proposed for the adjacent site behind Rastrick Fire Station which would further exacerbate all these points.
Jonathan Dunbavin, the agent for the applicants, and members of his team answered some questions put by councillors including about access and parking issues.
Mr Seaman told councillors that because the council did not have an up to date plan in place – the council’s Unitary Development Plan was adopted in 2006 and its Local Plan has not yet been approved – and did not have a five-year supply of land ready to deliver housing, national policy presumption was that plans should be approved unless it could be clearly demonstrated harm would outdo benefit.
Councillors heard the background to this was that Calderdale was the second worst local authority in the country for delivery of new homes and badly needed affordable homes, of which many were included in the scheme.
“It is not coincidental national policy is written in that way because the Government has a particular objective to develop housing and it is tipped in favour of delivering housing especially in those areas that do not have a Local Plan and do not have a supply of deliverable land.
“The council is the second worst council in England for delivery of housing,” said Mr Seaman.
A majority of councillors felt they could not approve the plans because they had concerns they felt needed to be addressed.
Eventually, they agreed to defer a decision for further discussions to take place.