Several weeks ago, Calderdale Council’s Labour administration released their latest housing site allocations as part of their Local Development Plan.
This is the process that will deliver 11,500 new houses across the Borough, as well as additional land for industrial growth.
The new allocations are based upon a reduction in the number of houses that the Council are now planning which was previously around 16,000. Although the reduction in the total number of houses is welcome, this is the only substantial change from the fatally flawed draft Plan that was released for consultation last summer.
Some communities have benefitted from a reduction in the number of houses that they are expected to accommodate (although the allocations in communities including Brighouse, Todmorden and Mytholmroyd/Luddendenfoot largely remain the same) but this is where the ‘good news’ comes to an end. Many of the 10,000 comments that were made as part of the recent consultation referred to the infrastructure requirements in the draft plan – or rather should I say, the complete lack of any infrastructure plans.
For many people, despite the obvious flaws within the plan as a whole, it is the total lack of any well considered and evidenced based plans for infrastructure which make the current draft Plan so weak and wholly inadequate.
The Council have been preparing the Plan for over seven years now, at a cost well in excess of £5 million, and the fact that they have still not produced an infrastructure plan as part of this process is absolutely incredible.
Demonstrating that the borough can sustain the new development outlined within the Plan is a very basic requirement of the Plan process. How on earth can the Council expect to show that it’s plan is robust and sound when it cannot produce an infrastructure plan? We all know that many aspects of our local infrastructure are under significant pressure already.
Whether it be the traffic in and around Brighouse, or the congestion, day in, day out, along the a646 through Todmorden, Hebden Bridge & Mytholmroyd, our road network across Calderdale is already under considerable strain. Where is the detail of the planned improvements to our transport system that will surely be required to sustain this sheer amount of additional development?
Of course, when we speak about infrastructure we do not only mean our transport network. Local schools, NHS services, Council services, leisure facilities, etc., all need to be carefully planned to ensure that future development in Calderdale does not negatively impact upon the quality of life of those who already live here. Again, where are the plans for these extra services as part of this draft Plan?
Although the majority of the housing planned for the borough will take place in ‘South Eastern Calderdale’ (this is Council jargon for Brighouse, Elland and Northowram), the appalling lack of infrastructure planning will impact upon the lives of all residents within the borough.
The large increase in housing and further industrial growth will create new transport patterns and increased demand for basic services, both of which will create knock on effects far beyond where the majority of development takes place. It is for this reason that the infrastructure plans are so vital for the process as a whole.
With Councillors due to vote on the final Local Development Plan in only a few months’ time, how can this Labour administration expect us to take their plan seriously when it is so deficient in the most basic of ways?
The Government wrote to the Leader of the Council in December to express its concern at how the Council were handling the Local Plan process and despite this unprecedented step, the Council’s handling of basic elements of the plan has not improved.
Local Conservatives cannot support the draft plan as it stands and we will be releasing our own plans which include a vision for how our infrastructure can be improved to facilitate future growth – this is in addition to the range of other changes that we feel need to be made as part of the Local Plan such as a fairer distribution of housing across Calderdale.
In May, residents across Calderdale will have an opportunity to have their say on the Local Plan at the ballot box – if Conservatives gain just a few more seats we will be in a position to make the changes which are so badly required in order to deliver a plan that is fair to all parts of the borough, is deliverable, and is fit for purpose.