Explanation by senior planner over controversial Calderdale housing numbers

Calderdale’s senior planner and council leader have explained why the borough’s Local Plan includes housing totals which have proved controversial among some people concerned about its impact.

By John Greenwood - Local Democracy Reporter
Sunday, 9th May 2021, 8:00 am

The plan, if approved by the Inspector Katie Child will shape where new homes – around 9,970 of them – and businesses can be built into the 2030s, with the Government requiring all authorities to produce one.

The third phase of hearings will consider matters raised during stage two of the hearings which took place in virtual form last autumn and winter, including considering questions she had raised and more evidence she required about infrastructure, housing supply and habitat.

Calderdale resident Paul Hanson of Halifax has asked questions about housing supply in local media and it has been a central issue in the debate, particularly in parts of Calderdale where many of the new homes might be built and among campaign groups including Calderdale Friends of the Earth.

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Calderdale Council’s Corporate Lead for Planning, Richard Seaman

Mr Hanson asked: “Why is the local authority aiming to deliver homes for four times as many people by 2033 than projections for the Office of National Statistics says are needed?

“Why is the proposal to build 997 homes a year on average, based on an analysis by a private consultancy firm which allows for increased migration to grow the labour force rather than continuing the demographic trends in Calderdale?

“Of the 15,000 homes that need to be built to meet the Local Plan requirements nearly 7,000 will need to be built on protected Green Belt land. What changes in legislation allows this to happen and what must be done to ensure brownfield sites are prioritised?

“What proportion of the proposed 15,000 homes will be built on the principles of sustainable living and within the remit of social housing?”

Calderdale Council’s Corporate Lead for Planning, Richard Seaman, said the council was ambitious about Calderdale’s future and wants to support economic growth and prosperity.

He also said he wanted to make sure people can live and find good quality jobs in the borough rather than having to travel outside the area and to protect its distinctive environment by defending the Green Belt and ensuring that homes are sustainable.

“Through our Local Plan, we have proposed a housing requirement that meets our local needs for all types of homes, including affordable homes.

“We also need to ensure that Calderdale’s expanding businesses have access to a large enough local workforce.

“When proposing our requirement for new homes, we took into account the latest household projections and other statistical information, and we believe that our housing proposals are in line with Government expectations.

“The proposals are currently being considered by a Planning Inspector, who is independent of the council.

“The housing requirement was discussed in detail, along with other aspects of the Local Plan, at hearings chaired by the Inspector in autumn 2020.

“We are hoping that the Inspector will publish her conclusions later this year.

“All of our proposed housing sites through the Local Plan have been based on thorough sustainability assessments and we have sought to make maximum use of brownfield sites to protect the Green Belt,” he said.

Leader of the council’s ruling Labour group, Coun Tim Swift (Lab, Town) said: “Calderdale Labour Group believe that local people, their children and their grandchildren, deserve good quality housing.

“Over the last twenty five years the supply of housing has gone down nationally and here in the borough we now have around 8,000 people on housing waiting lists.

“We also have some poor quality housing in the borough that is just not energy efficient and needs to be replaced or improved.

“We also want to see Calderdale grow and thrive over the next 15 years, with enough pupils to keep our schools open, enough customers for our town centre shops and enough employees to work in our local businesses without having to travel in from elsewhere.”

Coun Swift said the Labour group also think that people who have gone through lockdown in the cities will see Calderdale as an attractive place to live and work in the future.

“The Local Plan, which is currently with the Planning Inspector, is designed to address these issues.

“We are working with housing partners to develop plans for more affordable housing and, of course, we have declared a ‘Climate Emergency’ as a council. That means that we are committed to sustainable development,” he said.