Call for 'thorough' Calderdale consultation as inspector demands more homes are built per year

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Calderdale Conservatives are calling for a “thorough” consultation with residents on changes to the borough’s draft Local Plan required by a senior Planning Inspector.

Calderdale Conservatives are calling for a “thorough” consultation with residents on changes to the borough’s draft Local Plan required by a senior Planning Inspector.

READ MORE: Government inspector tells Calderdale Council to increase target and build 1,000 new homes a year
Katie Child – an independent Planning Inspector appointed by Secretary of State James Brokenshire to examine the plan – has written to Calderdale Council following completion of phase one of hearings into the plan, which were held at Shelf Village Hall in late June and early July.

In her letter she says one area of the plan which will need to be revised is the number of homes the council is likely to have to find space for between now and 2032.

Around 2,400 more homes than proposed in the authority’s draft Local Plan are likely to be needed in the borough as a whole over the 15-year life of the plan, whose timescale started in from 2017, she said.

Proposals for two Garden Suburb sites at Brighouse, which would total more than 3,000 new homes, have been especially controversial and a major cause of criticism from Conservative Group Leader Scott Benton, who is also a ward councillor for the town.

Councillor Benton and group colleagues have been critical of the plan’s development and says they now expect residents to be fully consulted about potential changes.

The council has said more consultation will take place.

“Calderdale is one of the last councils in the whole country to agree a Local Plan and the Government have previously criticised the council for their lacklustre handling of the plan process.

“The comments from the Planning Inspector indicate that the draft plan has at least one significant weakness and that substantial modifications are required,” said Coun Benton.

“Conservatives have strongly argued that the draft Local Plan is unfit for purpose and the inspector’s initial comments provide us with little confidence that the council’s approach to producing this plan over the last nine years has been sound.

“We would expect the council to conduct a thorough consultation with residents on any improvements to the plan that are now demanded by the inspector and we would urge them to finally listen to those communities which have severe concerns about this plan.”

When the hearings closed Ms Child expressed concerns over what she saw as a discrepancy between the number of homes the council would need and ambitious plans for economic growth.

Calderdale had submitted that it would need to build around 12,600 new homes across the life of the plan, in real terms around 9,600 homes when undeveloped plots which already have permission to be developed are taken into account.

Ms Child’s letter outlines areas of the draft Local Plan which will need to be revised before the next stage of examination begins with the second phase, examining individual sites, probably no earlier than November.

She concluded housing need in the borough is higher than the 840 homes per year the council proposed in the draft Local Plan and that a more realistic figure could be around 1,000 new homes annually – 15,000 over the life of the plan.

Calderdale Council’s Cabinet member for Regeneration and Resources, Coun Jane Scullion (Lab, Luddenden Foot) said the inspector had only expressed “significant” concerns about one aspect of the Local Plan, the housing numbers and the council would now work to ensure housing numbers were more closely aligned with the economic strategy for the borough and this could make it necessary to identify additional housing sites within the borough.

“If we conclude more housing land is required we will hold a public consultation before the next stage of the Local Plan hearings,” she said.

Initially Government, which insists every local authority has a plan, had suggested around 16,000 new homes would be needed over that time period, but this was reduced.