Housing blueprint debates building affordable Calderdale housing in semi-rural areas
How flexible – or restrictive – Local Plan policy should be to enable affordable housing to be built in semi-rural areas like the Calder Valley was debated at virtual hearings into the plan.
Planning Inspector Katie Child said rural exceptions focused on the west of the borough and Calderdale Council wanted to amend policy to say that these will be allowed provided the site is next to a parish, or if robust evidence is presented to identify need and it could not be met in other ways.
For the council, planning officer John Houston said the change was to allow for some flexibility for western Calderdale bearing in mind national policy was aimed at purely rural areas whereas nowhere in Calderdale was very far from a major settlement.
“We don’t want to be in a situation where it opens up rural areas to applications – we want to nail it down at this stage,” said Mr Houston.
Planning lead Richard Seaman said the issue fed through to supply of affordable homes, with even quite small homes in places like Hebden Bridge being very, very desirable with the result people were “priced out” of housing in their own areas.
Mr Houston said homes permitted under the policy would have to be tight to adjacent settlements.
“We wouldn’t want housing straying out into the countryside willy nilly,” he said.
Speaking for the Hebden Royd and Hilltop Parishes Neighbourhood Plan group, Anthony Rae said the group was concerned the changes might broaden out the policy away from the 11 settlements defined on the accompanying map.
He was concerned about the ambiguity of how the council would assess need.
Mr Houston said the council would look at any opportunities to meet the need with a multitude of partners, identifying where sites can be brought forward.
Mr Rae reiterated his point that the document did not say how these would be designated.
“The policy simply says ‘will be granted’ rather than wording which an application would have to meet, to protect green belt from undesirable development,” he said.
In upland development this would increase likely vehicle journeys and the point was taken up by Calderdale resident Amanda Tattersall.
She said she was concerned the change could mean the policy now included the whole of Calderdale with resulting traffic congestion and air quality issues.
Coun Steven Leigh (Con, Ryburn) said he thought the overriding criteria for decision making was that brownfield sites would be the preference for building. “That was sacrosanct,” he said.
Ms Child said she did not think the change was flexible enough.
“Affordable housing can support local communities and enable people to remain where they are,” she said.
Mr Rae disagreed and said the Neighbourhood Plan group’s view was that criteria were too permissive and not restraining enough.