A six week consultation period will get under way now scrutiny councillors have released for implementation Calderdale Council Cabinet’s preferred option for the next stage of the area’s Local Plan.
After more than an hour and half’s further debate at the council’s Place Scrutiny Board, Cabinet’s recommendation to Planning Inspector Katie Child that space be identified to built 9,970 homes over a ten year period under the Local Plan, which will shape where homes and businesses can be developed in Calderdale into the 2030s, was endorsed.
Attempts by some members to ask Cabinet to consider it again failed.
Cabinet member for Regeneration and Resources, Coun Jane Scullion (Lab, Luddenden Foot) told councillors after ten years there would be a pause to reassess more accurately how much more housing in the following five years might be needed.
The proposals are controversial, and some councillors and members of the public raised concerns about its implications, particularly for infrastructure such as highways, schools and GP surgeries, and also air quality following the call-in of Cabinet’s decision to be scrutinised.
Coun Geraldine Carter (Con, Ryburn) said the proposals raised serious infrastructure concerns about whether it could cope with the number of homes in the sites included in the plan.
The new site additions totalled space for 2,310 homes in addition to the 12,600 already in the draft plan and were in place, she said, including an extra 448 in Northowram and Shelf, 1,290 in Greetland, Elland and West Vale and 93 at Mytholmroyd.
So many new homes did not fit with the council’s declaration of a climate emergency, she said, with seven areas already subject to Air Quality management Area status being where more than 2,000 residences would be built. Instead of infrastructure before homes, homes would be built before infrastructure, she feared.
Brian Crossley of Shelf and Northowram Local Plan Forum said the group, which had almost 1,100 members, believed Cabinet had not considered an option to revisit the economic strategy to produce less need for new homes.
With an ageing demographic, it was likelier there would be a shortage of workers, not more of them, he said.
Coun Peter Caffrey (Con, Northowram and Shelf) developed that point arguing development would be building for imported growth and population, having to bring in workers from outside Calderdale.
Coun Marilyn Greenwood (Lib Dem, Greetland and Stainland) said cross-party councillors had not been given enough input through the working party, a view contested by Coun Scullion.
Coun Scullion said the Local Plan Working Party had examined these issues and the preferred option had been chosen because it reduced the amount of green belt land that would have to be taken by increased numbers.
Homes would be concentrated where there were already public transport links, for example, and with infrastructure like a new railway station at Elland also taken into account.
Planning lead officer Richard Seaman said an Infrastructure Development Plan accompanied the Local Plan and was regularly revised.
As well as the rail station at Elland, highway improvement schemes were being developed on the A629, A58, A646 and A641 main routes through the borough. Talks had also taken place with Calderdale Clinical Commissioning Group over health provision and the council had a track record showing it could respond to education needs with new building work quickly.
He added: “The viability of infrastructure is predicated on sufficient people to use it – pubs, Post Offices – you can view additional population as a positive,” he said.
New sites where homes might be built will now be put in the plan with consultation responses – the council has announced on the Local Plan section on its website that details of how the public can submit comments will be announced shortly – being considered by the inspector before she opens phase two of hearings into the plan, most likely early next year.
The council has produced the increased homes total after Ms Child wrote to the council after phase one of the hearings expressing concern that the number of homes initially submitted, 840 annually over 15 years, would not be enough to match up with the borough’s plans for economic growth – in a nutshell that there would not be enough homes for the predicted workforce.
Consultants Turley believed the council would need to identify land where 1,040 homes a year for 15 years could be built, councillors heard.
Coun Scullion said this was challenged and that following advice from the council’s own officers the preferred option addressed the inspector’s concern and had a chance of being approved by her.
The inspector had been happy with the council’s proposals for growth, she said.
When it discussed the issue last month Cabinet was warned if its Local Plan was not approved Government would take control of the process and impose a plan.