LDF real vote won't be until spring 2012

Issue 500

CAMPAIGNERS fighting to save green belt land from development are in limbo after it was revealed that a major planning decision is not final.
Hundreds of protesters attended a debate at Huddersfield Town Hall on Wednesday over the Local Development Framework (LDF).
But a marathon 13hour debate may have to be held again due to the delayed abolition of Government housing targets.
Local government secretary Eric Pickles was supposed to have ended Labour’s housing blueprint, the Regional Spatial Strategy (RSS), by June.
The strategy was the mechanism the previous Government used to decide how many new homes are needed in an area, and where they should go.
It was RSS that decided thousands of new homes would be needed in Kirklees up to 2028 at an average rate of about 1,900 a year.
The coalition Government previously announced the abolition of RSS in their Localism Bill.
When it is done away with, councils will be responsible for deciding housing levels in their area without having targets imposed on them.
But the scrapping of RSS was first put back to September, then October and last month it was announced it would will stay until next spring.
Kirklees officals decided to go ahead with Wednesday’s public meeting anyway, with the twist that any vote by councillors on the LDF would be nonbinding.
Kirklees Council leader Coun Mehboob Khan (Lab) slammed the uncertainty caused and added: “This is pure incompetence on the part of Eric Pickles.
“The promised abolition of RSS hasn’t happened. Further proposed changes to planning law mean we’ll have to revisit LDF later.
“It shows how this Government works. They announced the end of RSS in June 2010 yet it’s still on the statute books nearly two years later.”
Lib Dem leader Coun Kath Pinnock, whose party is part of the coalition Government nationally, said: “It’s frustrating that the incompetence of Eric Pickles has made things more complicated.
“All the parties here agreed that there was such a level of interest from the public in LDF that we couldn't not hold a meeting.”
New homes are only one part of the LDF – it also allocates land for employment use, including, contentiously, on greenfield and green belt sites.
Labour, Lib Dem, Greens and independent councillors teamed up to back a compromise plan while the Tories voted against.
It would allow 500 homes on green belt at Chidswell and 1,000 across Dewsbury South – but only after 15,000 homes have been built on brownfield sites first.
The nonbinding nature of the vote means a detailed plan for this will not go to public consultation under after RSS is scrapped.
Campaigners including the Thornhill Lees Community Action Group and Keep Roberttown and Hartshead Rural attended Wednesday’s meeting.
Council chief executive Adrian Lythgo said: “We were clear on the importance of this debate to local people.
“They have a right both to hear the alternative proposals being put forward from individual groups and councillors and to express their views.
“We aimed to reach agreement by the end on the core strategy, including the numbers of new homes needed, land for employment and future land use.
“But the Government has said it is no longer abolishing RSS as they had indicated and are now considering abolition in spring 2012.
"This puts us in a difficult position as anything we agree at present must conform to the current legislation.
“But that legislation will have been removed by the time any strategy comes into effect. Advice from barristers says the strategy would not comply with the law and we would be open to challenge."
Group and Keep Roberttown and Hartshead Rural attended Wednesday’s meeting.
Council chief executive Adrian Lythgo said: “We were clear on the importance of this debate to local people.
“They have a right both to hear the alternative proposals being put forward from individual groups and councillors and to express their views.
“We aimed to reach agreement by the end on the core strategy, including the numbers of new homes needed, land for employment and future land use.
“But the Government has said it is no longer abolishing RSS as they had indicated and are now considering abolition in spring 2012.
“This puts us in a difficult position as anything we agree at present must conform to the current legislation.
“But that legislation will have been removed by the time any strategy comes into effect. Advice from barristers says the strategy would not comply with the law and we would be open to challenge.”

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