Campaigners back plans inquiry doubts
COMMUNITY campaigners have backed a planning inspector’s concerns over Kirklees Council’s development masterplan.
The council’s long awaited blueprint for housing and industry, the Local Plan, is being probed by a government appointed inspector over the next few months.
Last week after the first phase of the public inquiry at the Hudawi Centre in Huddersfield was completed, inspector Katie Child raised a number of concerns about what she had heard so far.
She also called into question whether Kirklees can deliver the 31,140 houses required in time, describing planning officers’ proposals as “optimistic.”
Further concerns were raised about the distribution of housing and employment allocations across the borough.
Community action groups that have been taking part in the inquiry have said they are pleased with the progress made so far.
Members of Kirklees Community Action Group (KCAN), Save Mirfield, Holme Valley Vision, Upper Dearne Environmental Trust and Chidswell Action Group have been working with the Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE) to highlight complaints about plans for their areas.
A spokesperson for the groups said they felt “reassured” that the inspector had highlighted a number of their concerns to the council.
In a joint statement, they said: “The need for more housing is not doubted – what is questioned is the amount of land Kirklees has allocated for house building and the location of those sites.
“We feel Kirklees has put too much aside for building and industrial use.
“Our biggest fear is the sort of housing which is needed – small, low-cost properties in areas where the population is growing – will just not happen.”
They added: “We fear the Local Plan will leave developers an open door to build on large swathes of green fields and greenbelt land, while brownfield sites in existing built up areas will be left to go derelict.”
Robert Bamforth, of KCAN, said they felt the council was yet to prove the “exceptional circumstances” required in planning law to allow building on the green belt.
The council has targeted a number of green belt sites for thousands of homes, including parts of Bradley Park golf course, an area around Mirfield and Ravensthorpe and part of Chidswell in Dewsbury.
The groups said they felt assurances that the Local Plan would regenerate Huddersfield and Dewsbury had not been carried through to the plan.
“Much of the land allocated for housing is in rural areas, some distance from these centres,” said the statement.
“As more of the employment sites lie to the north of Huddersfield, this will force people to travel to work by car.
“So much for the plan’s intention of reducing carbon emissions.”
The second stage of Local Plan hearings were due to begin on November 14 but they have been shelved after the inspector was unable to attend due to personal reasons.
The third stage is currently scheduled to be heard as planned, beginning on December 5.