Affordable housing blow a committee rejects plan for the Calder Valley

Artist impression of how the affordable housing development could have looked in the upper Calder Valley
Artist impression of how the affordable housing development could have looked in the upper Calder Valley

A trust set up to build affordable homes to rent in the upper Calder Valley is considering its options after plans for a 20-home scheme in Hebden Bridge were rejected by councillors.

Calderdale Council planning officers had recommended Calder Valley Community Land Trust Ltd’s application to build the homes – six one-bedroom apartments, four two-bedroom duplexes, seven three-bedroom triplexes and three three-bedroom townhouses – on land between Heptonstall Road and Bridge Lanes, Hebden Bridge, should be approved.

But on a split decision Planning Committee councillors decided the heritage and air quality issues raised were of more serious concern.

Committee chair Coun Steve Sweeney (Lab, Todmorden) is a member of the trust, vacated the role, and could not vote on the application.

Historically there were densely packed terraced homes on the site, which is allocated as housing land and despite some concerns the proposals did not accord with some of its policies planning officers believed the need for social housing in Hebden Bridge outweighed other considerations.

The committee decided to go against the recommendation and turned the plans down after quizzing objectors and supporters of the plans, and the council’s own environmental health and highways officers.

More than 60 letters had been received by the council from people objecting to the proposals – and a similar number supporting the social housing scheme.

Trust chair Simon Brearley said members were enormously disappointed at the decision and they would consider their options.

“We will consider carefully the decision of the planning committee. The trustees of the CLT will meet next Monday.

“As a member-run organisation, we will be listening very much to what our members and supporters think,” he said.

He stressed the setback will not prevent the CLT from continuing in its mission of creating low-cost quality affordable homes to rent in the upper Calder Valley.

The builders of the CLT’s first development, of six independent living bungalows at Walsden, Todmorden, are scheduled to be on site very shortly.

The CLT also owns the Fielden Hall community centre in Todmorden and is in discussions with Network Rail about the long-term conservation of the heritage Hebden Bridge Signal Box.

Mr Brearley said: “Although this has been a highly disappointing afternoon, and the decision went against us by the narrowest of majorities, we want to thank all those friends who gave up their time to come along and join us for the committee meeting.”

In the meeting, a spokesperson for objectors said they believed the application was flawed on environmental grounds with serious concerns about air quality which is an established issue in Hebden Bridge.

Samples taken over more than a decade showed for 98 per cent of the time air quality at Bridge Lanes was not meeting the standard – with homes on one side and the steep hillside on the other, the funnel of traffic on the main A-road trapped pollution.

It would also damage the visual appearance of a heritage area and destroy the only green space on that side of town.

“We should not build social housing at any cost,” he said. “We hope the land trust can assess an easier site. We support social housing, but not at this cost.”

Ward councillors and a representative of Hebden Royd Town Council told the committee they backed the homes plan.

Coun Dave Young (Lab, Calder) said they would help Calderdale meet a very challenging target it has of providing hundreds of new ones each year – and they were needed with more than 300 people in Hebden Bridge on the waiting list for social housing.

Coun Sarah Courtney (Lab, Calder) said air quality had been mentioned but officers had confirmed the new homes would not make this problem worse. “The only thing that can do that is a reduction of traffic,” she said.

The new homes had been designed to maximise technology like solar power and were well-insulated but with no gas heating to minimise harm to the environment.

Coun Carol Stow of Hebden Royd Town Council said it supported the application: “To keep Hebden Bridge vibrant we to have housing for our young people and affordable housing – we feel this development fits the criteria.”

Secretary of Calder Valley Community Land Trust Ltd, Andrew Bibby, told the committee the trust was a charity which was not building homes for commercial gain.

“We are proposing 20 homes at a genuinely affordable rent particularly aimed at young people and young families,” he said.

A series of consultations had been held, detailed discussions taken place and the number of homes reduced. These were energy efficient and using public transport rather than more car use was being encouraged.

“Our homes will be in the town long after the internal combustion engine will be part of history,” he said.

“We wanted it to be something the town can be proud of, that people will come and look at.

“The fact it faces south is very important, you can get maximum benefit of energy efficiency. We have gone from 27 to 24 to 20 homes. It won’t be viable with less than 20.”

Coun Stephen Baines (Con, Northowram and Shelf) proposed councillors go against officers’ recommendations and refuse the plans.

“I agree with the principle of homes at this site but I also agree with Historic England and our heritage officers’ concerns,” he said.

The new development would be out of character with a number of listed buildings close by.

Coun David Kirton (Con, Hipperholme and Lightcliffe) agreed because he was concerned about building new homes in an area which already had air quality which was not reaching the required standard.

Coun Carol Machell (Lab, Todmorden) proposed an amendment to support officers’ recommendations and approve the plans.

“On balance social housing need is absolutely, totally without argument. We need social housing in the area, for young people and this will provide the kind of housing Hebden Bridge needs and can be proud of in terms of character and stability,” she said.

Coun Colin Peel (Con, Brighouse) said he could see the need for homes for young people but had concerns about the number of parking spaces for the project – only 14 – and use of materials like solar panels in a heritage area.

“I think it’s the right scheme – in the wrong place,” he said.

Coun Machell was supported by Coun Faisal Shoukat (Lab, Park) who said the overarching issue was the need for social housing, but the amendment was defeated by three votes to two,

Coun Baines’ motion to refuse permission being carried by the same number.