Labour leader Cllr Tim Swift, in his latest column in the local press, sets out his views on the next stages in developing the Local Plan for Calderdale
Getting the right plan for future housing and employment land in Calderdale is a huge challenge. We are a victims of our past success – for many years, most new homes have been built on brownfield sites – that’s land that has previously been developed. So when Government guidance required us to provide for 17,000 new homes in the next fifteen years, it’s not surprising officers had no choice but to bring forward many green belt sites.
So the Labour group has welcomed the opportunity given by changing guidance to call for a redrafted plan that proposes a major reduction in the number of homes required. This will mean a much reduced need for sites to be found within the green belt.
You would have thought that the local Conservatives would welcome this, given that they were calling for the council to go ‘back to the drawing board’. But no, instead, they’ve decided to attack the council for not getting any plan in place more quickly.
I’m afraid this is typical of the cynical way they have behaved throughout the local plan process. I hope they will now reconsider their approach, and respond positively. Perhaps now at last their council leader and the Calder Valley MP will indicate firstly, whether they accept that a target of around 10,000 sites for new homes is one they support; and secondly, in broad terms, where they believe the balance of these homes should be provided?
Developing existing sites first
Let’s be clear that the first priority should continue to be to redevelop land within existing towns and villages. It’s really encouraging to see some developers starting to bring forward proposals for sites like former mills that have been underused or derelict for too long. Our council officers are willing to talk to any developer or land owner about how we can bring sites back into use. We believe that there’s a huge potential demand for housing within town centres, and that it’s a real win-win that can revitalise town centres.
I’m also concerned, though, at the number of sites that get planning permission, but then stand vacant. At the moment, the Council has no legal powers to get these sites developed – although the Chancellor promised a review of this issue in his budget. In the mean time, again our officers stand ready to talk to land owners about possibilities – and we are also in touch with housing associations and others who might be interested in developing some of these small sites to meet local housing need.