Political group leaders at loggerheads over Calderdale's draft Local Plan

Senior political leaders in Calderdale remain at loggerheads over the borough’s draft Local Plan.

Sunday, 7th November 2021, 12:00 pm
Leader of the Conservative group on Calderdale Council, Coun Steven Leigh (Ryburn), and Calderdale Council Leader Councillor Tim Swift (Labour)

Leader of the Conservative group on Calderdale Council, Coun Steven Leigh (Ryburn), wrote to the council’s Leader and Deputy Leader, Coun Tim Swift (Lab, Town) and Coun Jane Scullion (Lab, Luddenden Foot) following the fourth series of hearings this autumn, urging them to reconsider housing numbers and strategy in the plan.

Coun Leigh said in his letter that the Government, through Prime Minister Boris Johnson, had announced recently that its position was to protect countryside and Green Belt.

“In accordance with this announcement, it is essential that we should reduce Calderdale’s present Local Plan housing target to build 15,000 homes at the rate of 1,000 per year.

“This is our last chance to protect the wonderful and distinctive environment so unique to our borough.

“So, I ask you, please protect our Green Belt in Calderdale and stop the bulldozing of our countryside.”

The plan was out of line with local population growth projections aiming to deliver four times as many people as the economy was likely to need, while lacking sufficient affordable housing and accessible homes for elderly and disabled people, say the Conservatives.

In an executive summary of its concerns, the Conservative group alleges: “The plans are unsustainable and devastating to our local environment – 7,000 homes are designated to be built on green belt sites, mainly concentrated in eastern Calderdale (Brighouse, Greetland and Shelf wards).”

Reviewing former commercial units in town centres, bringing more than 1,700 empty dwellings back into use and focussing on available brownfield sites should be prioritised, say the Conservatives.

Brownfield sites in north Halifax alone offered space for 1,700 homes in north Halifax alone, says the group.

But Coun Swift said Coun Leigh’s arguments did not stack up and whatever the Prime Minister may have said at the Conservatives’ annual conference, the facts are that the council is legally required to produce a local plan under the current planning framework.

Coun Swift said many of the arguments being made by Coun Leigh were also being considered during public hearings and ultimately Inspector Katie Child will determine whether the plan is robust or how far any criticisms may be justified.

“If we were to follow Coun Leigh’s suggestion and reduce the housing allocation, we would risk leaving the borough without the housing we need for people of working age, and would make it much harder for local people to find the homes they need, damaging both the local economy and the opportunities for our children and grandchildren.

“The Local Plan continues to protect the Green Belt – it applies a sequential approach to all development, so that brownfield sites continue to be prioritised.

“However it is simply not possible to place all the identified need on brownfield sites – furthermore, brownfield sites are more costly to develop and this in turn limits the number of affordable homes provided.

“As an example of the problems with the Conservative letter, the figure for 1,700 homes in North Halifax is already included in the Local Plan; they are not additional as Coun Leigh seems to suggest.

“Similarly, the potential conversion of commercial units, and continued pressure to reduce the number of empty dwellings, are all taken account of within the housing numbers in the plan,” said Coun Swift.