Campaign groups set for showdown with government planning inspector

Campaign groups set for showdown with government planning inspector

CAMPAIGNERS from across the district will have the chance to speak out against plans to build thousands of new homes next week.

Government inspectors are beginning a public examination of Kirklees Council’s Local Plan,  the official blueprint that sets out how land for new homes and industry will be allocated.

The Local Plan sparked a long-running row between council officials and protest groups aiming to protect their local green spaces – and representatives will get to press their case to planning inspector Katie Child from next Tuesday.

Campaigners due to speak come from groups including Save Mirfield, the Chidswell Action Group, Spen Valley Civic Society, Roberttown Residents Association and the Kirklees Community Action Network.

Kirklees has been told by central government to build 31,000 new homes by 2031, of which around 10,000 are already built or approved.

Following years of wrangling the new Local Plan identified 200 sites across Kirklees that could provide homes or new business premises.

Included are two major proposals that could see up to 5,500 homes built in North Kirklees. 

A plot south-east of Mirfield, off Ravensthorpe Road, could hold up to 4,000 new homes while green belt at Chidswell in Dewsbury is earmarked for 1,500 homes plus industrial units on land off Leeds Road. 

Dozens of smaller sites across the district are also included.

The district’s current Unitary Development Plan (UDP), in force since 1999, is years out of date. A successor, the Local Development Framework, was thrown out by a government planning inspector. 

Meanwhile, Chidswell Action Group have engaged the services of a specialist to present their opposition. 

Group chairman Mark Eastwood said: “Thanks to the amazing generosity of local residents helping to raise money for legal fees, the Chidswell Action Group has instructed a planning lawyer to attend key stages of the hearings, where she will be vigorously challenging the overall soundness of Kirklees Council’s Local Plan and proposals to allow development on prime farmland and green belt at Chidswell.”

Kirklees’ Labour-run council passed the plan in October last year, despite opposition from members of the public and rival councillors. 

Following two periods of consultation with the public – which campaigners slammed as ‘flawed’ – a final draft was submitted to the planning inspectorate in April, alongside a ‘Community Infrastructure Levy’ proposal which sets out developer contributions linked to the impact of their proposals.

Key developers – including firms who have put forward controversial housing plans locally – will also have their say at the Hudawi Centre on Great Northern Street, Huddersfield.

Spokesmen from Strata Homes, Bellway, Redrow, Miller and Taylor Wimpey are all scheduled to speak. 

Government inspectors will now examine Kirklees’ proposal and if they approve it, councillors will then be asked to vote again in early 2018. 

Next week’s hearings represent the first stage of a four-part process that will culminate in early 2018.

Labour cabinet member for Strategic Planning Coun Peter McBride said: “There is the possibility that further hearings might be likely after the four stages we are aware of, if the Local Plan document needs to be modified to be found sound.

“Hearings on the Community Infrastructure Levy will be separate, but are likely to last only a couple of days. All the hearings will be in public and we expect will be covered by local media.

“The task is to ensure the Local Plan is legal and sound – this is a normal part of the process.”

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