'Blame game' as LDF is thrown in the bin

'Blame game' as LDF is thrown in the bin

CAMPAIGNERS trying to save green belt sites from mass housing development face uncertainty after Kirklees Council axed its £600,000 planning strategy on Wednesday.

The Local Development Framework (LDF) was thrown out amid bitter scenes at a Huddersfield Town Hall meeting.

A new plan, ready for public consultation by next summer, would be funded by existing council budgets.

But it is not known at this stage how much the work will cost – with residents  left in limbo over the future of green belt land.

The LDF was criticised by a planning inspector for its housing figures and the council’s failure to consult with neighbouring authorities.

It was withdrawn by 27 votes (Labour) to 23 (Tories/Greens) with 10 abstentions (Lib Dem).

Before the vote the parties played the blame game, with Tory leader Coun Robert Light, pictured left,(Birstall and Birkenshaw) heading the charge.

He said: “Who’s LDF plan was it? Labour’s. Who’s housing numbers was it? Labour’s?

“Who’s plan did the planning inspector throw out? Labour’s.

“The plan has gone up in flames because you made a mess of it. We’ll have to live with your incompetence for years.

“Four-and-a-half years working on a plan that gets thrown out at the first hurdle. That’s a disgrace.”

Lib Dem leader Kath Pinnock (Cleckheaton) proposed an amendment for the Tory’s LDF proposal to be put to the planning inspector. She said of her idea: “I’d like to see if their proposal for 18,000 new homes would be approved.  The housing figure already proposed (22,470) was lower than what the planning inspector wanted.”

The amendment was withdrawn after an adjournment saw party leaders and chief executive Adrian Lythgo take legal advice on the move.

But it was agreed to informally pass on the Tory LDF proposal to Secretary of State Eric Pickles for his consideration.

In the meantime the LDF will be withdrawn.  Much of the current plan is likely to be salvaged, though housing and the duty to co-operate with other councils will be revisited.

Coun Light said: “The chances are a lot more land will have to be developed that could’ve been saved.”

Lib Dem chief Coun Pinnock said: “None of us want to see the loss of green belt, but I suggest we all want people to have homes to live in.”

The housing target was set by a now abolished Government formula called the Regional Special Strategy (RSS).

Council leader Mehboob Khan criticised the in-fighting and said: “When there isn’t cross-party agreement that’s when the council is at its weakest.

“The inspector left us with no room for manoeuvre. He found we failed in our duty to co-operate because we did not follow the RSS housing target.

“But our own projections showed the housing need in Kirklees to be significantly less than RSS. “Withdrawal doesn’t mean we need to start again. We can proceed to make changes to the core strategy.”

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