Councillors have given the green light – subject to certain legal agreement – to a controversial plan for 267 homes to be built at Rastrick.
Calderdale Council’s Planning Committee was mindful to permit amended 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, albeit not with a great deal of enthusiasm and on a split vote.
Coun Colin Hutchinson (Lab, Skircoat) criticised the scheme’s uniform design, despite some compromise upgrades resulting from a meeting between the developers and council officers after the application was deferred back in November because councillors were not happy with some aspects.
He said he did not believe the project would produce a strong sense of space and result in the sort of environment where families, many with young children, could interract.
But his proposal the plans be rejected was not successful.
Councillors were warned by Lead Planning Officer Richard Seaman that his officers had concluded the application met the council’s and national planning guidelines and defending an appeal against refusal that was likely to follow would be very difficult.
Evidence to back up refusal would be tested through cross-examination by a barrister at public inquiry presided over by a Planning Inspector, he said.
“In that context any reasons for refusal have to be absolutely explicit and precise, and capable of being evidenced.
“My advice to members would be that if the application went to appeal we would have very, very significant difficulties defending a refusal and in the circumstances the council would be at risk of a cost award,” he said.
Refusal would have to show concerns outweighed the benefit of a large number of new homes which Calderdale needed and was behind in building.
“I can’t see any actual evidence to substantiate those concerns,” he said.
Agents for the applicants said the plans provided a significant number of high quality housing with a mix of affordable homes, making a significant contribution to Calderdale’s housing supply position, one saying: “Housing need is real and immediate.”
A proposal from Committee Chair Coun Steve Sweeney (Lab, Todmorden) to support officers’ recommendation to be mindful to permit the plans was approved.
“I can understand a lot of the arguments in terms of what we would like to see about quality housing,” he said, but questioned whether that could be viably done while this scheme provided a lot of affordable housing.
“Houses are desperately needed in Calderdale,” said Coun Sweeney.
Earlier Mr Nick Midgley of Rastrick Neighbourhood Forum spoke on behalf of residents and said they feared the driving force behind the recommendation to approve was Calderdale’s being well behind target in terms of building new homes.
He outlined concerns over design, infrastructure matters including the pressure a large number of new homes would put on highways and road junctions, and believed compensating for the loss of biodiversity land by financial support for a site five miles away at Norland was unsatisfactory.
“Basically we believe this development proposes too many units.
“As a community we are fed up being told this is what you are getting and just get over it.
“We feel as a community we have been failed by the planning process,” he said.
Rastrick ward councillor Coun Sophie Whittaker (Con) said highways issues and concerns over air quality with the amount of traffic the new homes would generate were serious and paramount.
Coun Hutchinson said the design would not create a sense of place.
“I’m not sure I am the only person on this committee that felt a great sense of disappointment and a missed opportunity since the deferment of this decision.
“I still feel what is proposed is a ‘one size fits all’ development rather than somewhere that reflects the nature of Rastrick and Calderdale and provides good space for communities to grow together,” he said.
Coun Paul Bellenger (Lib Dem, Greetland and Stainland), supported the recommendation to permit but very reluctantly, he said.
“Personally I am against it because it is a huge development.
“However going by what our officers have said, if this went to inspection there is a very good chance the Inspector would allow this to go ahead.
“That’s where we stand on this development – I’m not for it but can’t go against it, there are no valid reasons. I’m struggling,” he said.