The Talking Politics column with Councillor James Baker, leader of Calderdale Liberal Democrats.
The local plan won’t solve our housing problems, but it might wreck our environment.
Problems have been identified by the Government’s inspector with the Council’s local plan.
They have said we need to either increase our housing site allocations or decrease our planned ambitions of growth.
It appears that the Labour administration is opting to increase housing sites. By the time this article goes to print their cabinet will have decided on this.
Revised plans are likely to make housing sites provision for 1,000 new homes a year being built. This is about three times higher than the number of houses we are currently building.
However, identifying more sites doesn’t mean that more houses will be built.
There are plenty of brownfield sites in Calderdale which are already available but haven’t been developed. The reason being developers can’t turn a profit on them.
If we are to avoid a situation where our greenbelt gets developed whilst we are left with empty brownfield sites, then we need Government intervention in the housing market.
Our local Council has been slow off the mark in taking a lead on this. Calderdale Council rates one of the lowest in the country in terms of new homes built.
To unlock further brownfield sites, we need a sizeable devolution deal for our region and the creation of a regional housing fund. Currently West Yorkshire is losing out on funds for new housing from Government.
Without these funds local government will struggle to unlock brownfield sites.
With increasing environmental concerns over global warming, we must also question how far the local plan goes in areas such as planting new forests and reducing our greenhouse gas emissions.
There is rightly a focus on meeting our housing needs, but we also need to think about how we meet our environment needs.
There are many studies that show how living in a pleasant natural environment is beneficial to our health and wellbeing.
We need more forests, so we have clean air to breath, biodiversity, places to walk, and CO2 being removed from the atmosphere.
Environmental concerns are often seen as secondary to economic concerns, but really, they are the same.
Without a thriving and liveable natural environment, we can’t have a thriving economy.
In the meantime, whilst those in power make decisions on these big issues we will be campaigning to try and protect valuable bits of our local environment from overdevelopment.
In the past weeks we have been out campaigning with residents in areas such as the Wheatley Valley, Elland, and Greetland that are heavily impacted upon by the revised plan.
If the Council ignores these people’s concerns, then they might well need to take the cases against the development of these sites to the inspector at the next hearing stages.