Row over affordable homes plan in the Calder Valley

Visuals of the planned housing development in Hebden Bridge
Visuals of the planned housing development in Hebden Bridge

Planning officers are advising that delivery of social housing in an area which needs it outweighs health and heritage concerns where a controversial application to build new homes is concerned.

Next Tuesday, February 5, Calderdale Council’s Planning Committee is being asked to determine an application by a housing to trust to build 20 new homes in Hebden Bridge, proposals which have generated large amounts of both opposition and support.

Calder Valley Community Land Trust wants to build 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.

Years ago there were homes on the site, known as High Street, but these were demolished more than 50 years ago and it has since reverted to nature.

Officers have recommended that the plans should be permitted, subject to a number of conditions.

The plans are controversial, with opponents concerned over issues including air quality, loss of green space, parking concerns,questions over whether asbestos from the former Acre Mill was ever stored there and heritage, given that it is a gateway site into Hebden Bridge.

Objectors include Heritage England and the council’s Environmental Health department who believe the application should be turned down on grounds of air quality.

Supporters of the scheme argue that social housing is much needed in Hebden Bridge and they will meet a genuine need.

According to the officers’ report, there is a waiting list of 300 for social housing in the town.

Three councillors have expressed support for the proposals with some caveats.

Coun Sarah Courtney (Lab, Calder), said it was heartening to see a development that is truly not-for-profit and will provide much needed social rental accommodation for younger people in central Hebden Bridge and was please the north part of the site where more mature trees stand will not be developed.

Reducing air pollution by encouraging care shares and public transport use would help address concerns over air quality, she added.

“I’m sure that planning officers and members of the planning committee will take seriously any issues regarding safety of the site and slope, as well as flooding risk, air quality issues and any other issues relating to planning law,” said Coun Courtney.

Coun Scott Patient (Lab, Luddenden Foot) said the proposals would make good use of currently unexploited but previously used brownfield site land.

“Hebden Bridge sorely needs more affordable housing options for its young people, who are being consistently priced out of the area, although this is good for surrounding Mytholmroyd and Todmorden in terms of economic growth Hebden Bridge must remember to appeal to those who live here already and not just continue in its gentrification.

“We need more thinking like this, small infill developments in means tested areas with socially affordable housing for those young people that want to stay here and continue to contribute to the local economy.”

Coun Dave Young (Lab, Calder) said the application has caused a great amount of interest on the council’s online Planning Portal.

“Hebden Bridge is in dire need of affordable social housing and in my opinion this small scale proposed development of 20 units will help in a small way to address the situation.

“The site is not ideal but Calder Valley Community Land Trust could not afford to purchase a flatter site from a private developer and therefore on balance I am in favour of this proposed development,” he said.

Hebden Royd Town Council does not object to the plans and has told Calderdale Council: “The Town Council eagerly looks forward to the social housing elements of this development.”

In terms of the heritage aspect, it is considered the applicant has amended the design through early engagement with the community, lowering the height at the western end of the site, reducing the number of dwellings and varying the roofline.

With regards to the proposed use of materials, it is considered that the proposal has sought to minimise the harm to its fullest extent in relation to the development proposed.

Whilst the materials are not traditional, the form, design and scale of the proposed dwellings reflect the traditional pattern of development seen elsewhere in Hebden Bridge, argue planners.

The development site was historically home to terraced housing at a much higher density than is proposed, and as such it is considered the development is appropriate in a historical context, they added.

In terms of air quality, officers acknowledge Environmental Health consider the proposal should be refused on air quality grounds.

But mitigation measures are included in the plans and really the matter requires a strategic approach to address the air quality issues in Hebden Bridge.

Planning officers conclude: “Overall, on balance of considerations, the delivery of social housing is considered to outweigh the impact on heritage issues and air quality issues.”

Councillors will make their decision at Halifax Town Hall next Tuesday, February 5, from 2pm with this case expected to be heard around 3pm.