Calderdale councillors clash over infrastructure funding linked to Local Plan in Brighouse

A council will have to fund infrastructure to help serve thousands of new homes and business development near Brighouse if private sector developers won’t, councillors heard.
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Calderdale councillors approved borrowing plans to pay for infrastructure costs in south east Calderdale, guided by Local Plan.

The tab is expected to be around £52.4 million – including £34.9 million borrowed by the council – and councillors heard that with interest it could see the council laying out around £65 million over a 25-year period, being recouped by the end of that from a Roof Tax levied on developers through legal agreements for the new homes.

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Cabinet councillors, making the recommendation the full council approved the spending, were told the infrastructure will be essential to maximise potential of two garden communities totalling around 3,000 new homes, the proposed Clifton Business Park and A641 corridor improvements on the route linking Bradford to Kirklees via Brighouse.Cabinet councillors, making the recommendation the full council approved the spending, were told the infrastructure will be essential to maximise potential of two garden communities totalling around 3,000 new homes, the proposed Clifton Business Park and A641 corridor improvements on the route linking Bradford to Kirklees via Brighouse.
Cabinet councillors, making the recommendation the full council approved the spending, were told the infrastructure will be essential to maximise potential of two garden communities totalling around 3,000 new homes, the proposed Clifton Business Park and A641 corridor improvements on the route linking Bradford to Kirklees via Brighouse.
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Cabinet councillors were told the infrastructure – including roads, schools and community centres – will be essential to maximise potential of two garden communities totalling around 3,000 new homes, the proposed Clifton Business Park and A641 corridor improvements on the route linking Bradford to Kirklees via Brighouse.

Ruling Labour group councillors clashed with Conservatives and Greens who were concerned about the risks involved at a time when councils are cash-strapped.

Coun Martin Hey (Green, Northowram and Shelf) said private equity companies would not take on such a risk.

But Cabinet member for Resources, Coun Silvia Dacre (Lab, Todmorden) said to provide much-needed new homes and grow business, it was necessary.

Coun Silvia Dacre. Picture: James MieszkowskiCoun Silvia Dacre. Picture: James Mieszkowski
Coun Silvia Dacre. Picture: James Mieszkowski

“We are ambitious for our borough.

“We are not just going to sit back and accept decline."

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Coun Scott Patient (Lab, Luddenden Foot) said even if the homes appeared overnight they would only plug half the gap of the number of people already on Calderdale’s social housing waiting lists.

“They are urgently trying to find homes within Calderdale, and they are not going to be built overnight.

Coun Steven LeighCoun Steven Leigh
Coun Steven Leigh

“But it is important we do put the infrastructure in place to make sure the homes are the best they can be,” he said.

However, the price tag as “ringing alarm bells” for opposition politicians.

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Conservative group leader Coun Steven Leigh (Con, Ryburn) referenced expected budget overspends in 2023-24 and said the ruling Labour group had “failed to address the dire financial situation of this council.”

Coun Martin Hey (Green, Northowram and Shelf) said he understood that effectively the council would be laying out up to £65 million, with that being returned via stages of Roof Tax levied on housebuilders by the end of the period.

But he pointed out risks outlined in the documents.

“The risks are numerous and quite large – we don’t know where inflation is going to be, there are undefined aspects of the project, including link road delivery, interest rates, uncertain house prices, uncertain developing capacity, the Roof Tax not agreed with developers, land values, the legal position still unclear, planning performance assessments with housebuilders still to be signed and no private developer come forward to develop the business park.

“Private equity or hedge funds, private developers aren’t going to take this sort of risk on but cash-strapped Calderdale Council are? That just rings alarm bells for me,” he said.

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Coun Dacre responded: “In relation to the fact that the private sector will not fund some of these arrangements, that is why you need a public sector to deal with private sector failure – you’ve got to have that fall back position that we can ensure that this development takes place by providing the infrastructure.”