Independent councillor Colin Raistrick: Why I voted yes on Calderdale's Local Plan

There have been major debates over the Local Plan
There have been major debates over the Local Plan

Last week Calderdale Council voted 28-18 in favour of the long awaited Local Plan. I was one of the 28.

The 18 against were all Conservative. This is a little ironic as it’s the Conservative government that is insisting that we build 12,600 houses.

It was an easy decision for me and I’ll tell you why. Firstly, in the original proposals Hipperholme/Lightcliffe was earmarked for well over a thousand houses. This is plainly ridiculous given the traffic constraints. Now, in the plan I voted for, we get less than a quarter of that. Not a bad deal for my ward.

Secondly the government (Conservative, remember) demanded that we publish this plan this summer or they would send inspectors up from Westminster to write it for us. This would have been very bad for Hipp/Lightcliffe. Who knows how many houses we would have been allocated?

A lot more than the current plan, I’m sure as these same inspectors recently passed 50 homes within 300 yards of Hipperholme crossroads, simply because the inspectors said we didn’t have a plan (it should also be said that our supine planning department, with Coun David Kirton [Hipperholme/Lightcliffe] as chair, did not help this situation with an insipid defence of the council’s wishes).

I’m going to be brutally frank here. What this plan now means is that Clifton and Rastrick are going to get a lot of houses. A lot. Is this common sense or politics? Take your pick. The common sense argument says that if you are going to build a lot of houses, build them near the motorway. It will stop the other roads clogging up as much. The political argument is that the Labour administration is picking on the Conservative areas with some sort of spiteful intent. It could be either or both.

I’m at odds with Conservative ward colleagues on this, but their arguments don’t make sense. Councillors Kirton and Robinson have made statements to justify the way they voted against the best interests of their constituents, that houses at Clifton will have an adverse effect on Hipperholme crossroads. Total balderdash. If you are in Clifton, where are you going if you need to come through Hipperholme? Think about it. Manchester, Leeds, Bradford? You’d go on the motorway. Huddersfield? Motorway or Mirfield. Halifax? Motorway to the Ainleys, up the reorganised Salterhebble. So where? Keighley? Who in their right minds goes to Keighley?

So the bottom line is I ignored politics and voted for Hipperholme/Lightcliffe and my ward colleagues voted the way they were told by the Brighouse based Conservative leadership. Sad but true.

It’s a shame that politics gets in the way of big decisions and that this sometimes overshadows the really good work that is being done in other areas. The director of children’s services in Calderdale was recently honoured. There is no doubt that Stuart Smith, in a team effort involving committed councillors (of all parties), talented management and superb staff, has turned our children’s and young people department around. Two examples: the educational achievements of our looked after children (children in care we used to call them) is the best in England.

Our preventative programme around child sexual exploitation is a national benchmark for excellence. This is a credit to everyone involved and is making a real, tangible difference to the lives of vulnerable children in our borough.

Just a quick note on the recent election. Thanks to my small, but determined, team of leaflet deliverers, Tracey (and family!), James, Jordan, Jayne, Roger and my brother Stuart and sister-in -law Jennifer. It was, by far, the most aggressive campaign I’ve ever been involved in. Personal insults, scurrilous claims in leaflets and the press, along with disparaging and derogatory comments on social media. As my Auntie Joyce, in Morley. says: “Winners can laugh, losers, they can please themselves.” Four more years, thank you.