Calderdale Council pledges more consultation on controversial planning document

Campaigners and councillors have told been further consultation will be held about a controversial air quality document submitted to the examination library for Calderdale Council’s draft Local Plan.

By John Greenwood, Local Democracy Reporting Service
Friday, 4th June 2021, 12:10 pm
Updated Friday, 4th June 2021, 12:12 pm
Calderdale Council has pledged there will be more consultation over a controversial air quality document
Calderdale Council has pledged there will be more consultation over a controversial air quality document

Campaign groups have claimed a key document concerning air quality has been substantially changed without notification – the council does not agree with this assessment – and had pressed for it to be debated at last night’s Place Scrutiny Board (June 3).

A week ago senior officers had said this could not be included on that agenda, which some councillors believed was the only opportunity for the grievance to be debated publically before the third series of hearings into the Local Plan begin under Inspector Katie Child’s stewardship on Tuesday June 15.

But just an hour before the scrutiny board meeting the council published a statement on its website saying further consultation would take place.

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The council has indicated this will take place ahead of a probable fourth series of hearings into the plan, which will determine where thousands of new homes might be built in Calderdale into the 2030s, with the Inspector ultimately deciding whether it is sound.

Councillors did raise the issue at Place Scrutiny Board with some discussion about when they might discuss it.

Chair of the board, Coun Peter Caffrey believed this should be done sooner rather than later and his party group leader Coun Steven Leigh (Con, Ryburn) said the groups expressing concern represented thousands of people.

Coun Caffrey (Con, Northowram and Shelf) said: “This is festering away in the background. People aren’t happy.

“There is a lot of dissent out there about the history of these reports.

“Clearly there is a lot of concern out there that this needs to be out there in the open and discussed.”

The council’s Head of Legal and Democratic Services, Ian Hughes, said the most appropriate time would be after the third series of hearings around the further consultation period the council had now agreed would take place so board members’ views could become part of that process.

Board members’ views on the timing of discussion at a future meeting will be sought before a date is agreed.

Coun Caffrey stressed: “I am not trying to push this under the carpet because it is going to fester whatever happens,” he said.

Anthony Rae of Calderdale Friends of the Earth, who issued the statement a week ago on behalf of campaign groups particularly in the lower Calder Valley where thousands of new homes are likely to be placed, said the council statement did not address 12 questions the groups had posed to the council.

Earlier Mr Rae had expressed the groups’ disappointment and concern that the Place Scrutiny Board would not be able to debate the issues raised at its June 3 meeting.

In the statement the council says changes made to the air quality document were a result of the document moving from its draft to final version.

It says: “The draft and final versions of CC132 followed one another in close succession and the council was keen to put it into the public realm as soon as possible and then to update them when the final version became available.

“We recognise though that the version history should have been made clear on the Examination webpage because this has caused unnecessary confusion, and we therefore apologise for this.

“Although the council does not consider that the changes between the draft and final versions of CC132 were substantive, in the interests of transparency, the council will run an additional period for representations to be submitted on document CC132 and accompanying CC132a.”

The statement goes on to say that considering air quality is not part of the agenda at the Stage 3 Hearings the council will hold the additional 14 day consultation once these hearings have closed.

“This will allow participants to prepare and focus on the forthcoming matters.

“The council will also publish a note produced by consultants WSP which will set out the changes between the two documents and the reason for these changes,” it says.