Column: Talking Politics with Councillor Steven Leigh - The importance of local democracy

​At the Calderdale Council meeting which was held on March 22 the ruling Labour Group rail-roaded a very important vote to Adopt the ‘Local Plan’ (LP), despite opposition from our Conservative Group together with all other councillors and political parties.
​Building on Greenbelt in Calderdale should be a very last option.​Building on Greenbelt in Calderdale should be a very last option.
​Building on Greenbelt in Calderdale should be a very last option.

​Our opposition to the LP has been continuous over the last several years at a series of hearings conducted by a Government inspector. We were opposed to the LP for a variety of reasons, the main ones being that we consider there is a woeful lack of commensurate and appropriate support services (Doctors, dentists, nursery/school options, libraries, leisure facilities etc) to enable the LP to have a chance of being fit for purpose. Labour disagree.

The LP predicts population growth in Calderdale of over 20,000 over the next twelve years, that around 10,000 new jobs will be created, and that more than 14,000 new houses will be needed.

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Calderdale residents rightly deserve enlightened and realistic council plans and ambitions which could become reality – provided of course that planning for the future is based on solid logic and common-sense. Notwithstanding what other decisions are made at a national level in Parliament, the local decisions made by Calderdale Council are of very great importance for the future of the borough and its residents.

That is why, as reported by the Courier, there was such passion and acrimonious argument during the debate which preceded the fateful acceptance by Labour of the LP.

That’s local democracy - and whilst we are extremely concerned about the outcome, it must be accepted that we are subject to a LP which we must now do our utmost to influence in a positive manner, and by determined efforts, to tune and influence for the greater good of all Calderdale residents.

Very importantly, we are seeking assurances from the Labour administration that housing developments, over the life of the LP, will be very carefully programmed to only permit any building on Greenbelt towards the end of the plan (only if such building, at that time, is proven to be absolutely necessary), and only if all existing sites and Brownfield options have been fully explored and evaluated. Building on Greenbelt should be a very last option – Calderdale residents deserve nothing less.