Discussions around the Local Plan for Calderdale are taking up a lot of print in both local newspapers and election leaflets, especially in the Lower Valley.
I’m going to discuss it without mentioning any political parties, fill them in for yourself.
Since the legislation was passed in Parliament in 2004 (yes,2004),successive governments have required local councils to produce a plan for housing in their area. Calderdale has produced, finally, and after a big reduction, a figure of 11,500 new houses to be built in the next 15 years, borough-wide.
This number effectively can’t be changed (worth repeating - can’t be changed) whichever party is in control of the council, because it’s a national government number. In fact only last week the Prime Minister stated that this number should be considered a minimum not a maximum and further, if councils didn’t fulfil their obligation to build lots of houses she would suspend councils’ power to make planning decisions and send a load of smartly dressed people up from London to make planning decisions for us.
Sajid Javid, the Communities Minister, wrote to Calderdale saying that if we don’t decide on our Local Plan quickly he’d send even more sharply dressed southerners to make decisions for us (that’s a lot of southerners!).
Effectively what this means is developers get to do what they want and build anywhere. Developers just have to say, Calderdale doesn’t have a plan so this site will do.
This is the reason that 50 houses have just been passed by one of these “suits” (to be fair, this one came from Bristol) on a Crosslee owned site in Hipperholme, despite the best efforts of my neighbours and me and the council refusing permission.
This is a real consequence of not having a Local Plan.
Now, the 11,500 houses (minimum, remember) can be built anywhere, this is a council decision. What the current administration has decided is that the bulk of them should be built near the M62 in Brighouse (including Clifton) 2,500 houses, Rastrick (1,100) and Elland (1,400).
This has incensed local people and local politicians. Other local politicians of the Upper Valley, like Ryburn (95 houses) or Hebden Bridge (100) aren’t saying much. No surprise there.
In Hipperholme/Lightcliffe, including Hove Edge, Norwood Green and Bailiff Bridge, we were originally allocated 1,100 houses, but after a rethink a reduction and the passing of 50 houses we now have an allocation of around 200 (not counting mixed use sites). Still too many some might think, given the transport restrictions in the ward, but a whole lot less than Brighouse, Clifton, Rastrick and Elland.
The words “fairly distributed” are bandied about a lot. What’s fair?
Take the 11,500 and divide by the 17 wards and a “fair” allocation would be 676 houses per ward. Do you the people who live in wards with a lower allocation (think Hipperholme/Lightcliffe or Ryburn etc) want to have their numbers increased? I think not.
So, the bottom line is that without a plan some quinoa munching southerners, who’ve never even seen a whippet, will be making the decisions, egged on by greedy developers building five bedroom executive homes that our young people can’t afford to buy.
Not ideal is it?
In the words of my Auntie Joyce, who lives in Morley, “be careful what you wish for”.
Brexit Update: In the last few weeks, former Prime Ministers Tony (Iraq war) Blair and John (Edwina Currie) Major have both said what a bad idea leaving the EU will be.
That’ll be right then.