By Tony Earnshaw Local Democracy Reporter
KIRKLEES Council’s massive planning blueprint has been approved by a government planning inspector.
But as it signs off on tens of thousands of new homes across the borough it also puts up obstacles for fracking companies wishing to drill for hydrocarbons such as shale gas.
And Green campaigners say it could have national implications.
The authority’s ambitious Local Plan will now go to debate at a special meeting of Kirklees Council on February 27. It is likely to be adopted and signed into law.
An order from the government, the Local Plan includes 31,000 homes, many of which will have to be built within the green belt as there is insufficient non-green belt land in the borough.
Among the huge schemes are developments at Dewsbury Riverside between Mirfield and Ravensthorpe (4,000 homes), and at Bradley, building on the 18-hole golf course (1,500 homes).
Reacting to the report by Katie Child of the Planning Inspectorate, Council Leader Shabir Pandor said it was “fantastic news” for Kirklees.
Also cheering was Green Group leader Coun Andrew Cooper, who said the inclusion of an amendment to a policy relating to hydrocarbon extraction proposals could have a crucial impact on fracking across the country.
The amendment, adopted by the council in 2016, says proposals for production of hydrocarbons should demonstrate “net zero impact on climate change.”
In short if the effects of fracking cannot be mitigated no approval will be given.
Said Coun Cooper: “We cannot rule out fracking because that would go against national policy.
“But we have put a condition on that to make it more difficult for fracking applications to be accepted without getting over this reasonable hurdle.”
He added: “It’s the first time such a policy has been accepted in the UK and accepted by the government’s Planning Inspector.
“That policy could be applied in other authorities as they would be able to use Kirklees as an example.
“That makes it quite difficult for fracking companies to do it in other parts of the UK.
“The government could overrule a local authority but it would be hard to justify it because we have gone through a process that the government itself has approved through the Planning Inspectorate.
“They would be arguing against themselves.”
Ms Child said the vision, strategic objectives and spatial development strategy in the plan “provide a positive and soundly based framework for the delivery of sustainable development in Kirklees.”
Coun Pandor added: “The inspector believed we have been ambitious yet realistic in our economic aspirations for the district.”
His colleague Coun Peter McBride, who heads up the council’s regeneration projects, said: “The important thing now is that we deliver, because that is the way we can protect the green belt and our important urban green spaces against unwelcome development whilst delivering new homes that meet local needs.
“We will also have planned growth alongside infrastructure improvements.”
The debate on whether to adopt the Local Plan will be held at a specially-arranged full council meeting on Wednesday February 27 from 5.30pm.
The inspector’s feedback can be found at www.kirklees.gov.uk/localplan.
Copies are also available at the Dewsbury and Huddersfield Customer Service Centres.
THERE have been mixed reactions to news that Kirklees Council’s Local Plan, which will see tens of thousands of new homes built in the borough, has been approved by a government planning inspector.
Council leader Shabir Pandor described the sign-off as “fantastic news”.
But Liberal Democrat Group leader Coun John Lawson (Cleckheaton) said there was frustration about the amount of green belt land allocated for housing.
“While we appreciate the importance of having a Local Development Plan to bring to an end the planning uncertainties of the last few years we fundamentally disagree with the imposition, by government, of the numbers that became the be-all and end-all of the plan,” he said.
“We have encouraged the public to participate from the start of the process but are disappointed that there are several examples of their concerns not being acknowledged in a meaningful way, most significantly where former green belt has been allocated for housing.
“We are very concerned that there are areas where this plan deliberately intensifies housing density in areas of known traffic congestion and poor air quality, storing up problems for future generations.”
Coun John Taylor, deputy leader of the Conservative Group, criticised the Labour-run authority for failing to promote balanced growth and to create a distinct identity and future for the borough.
He called it “a one-eyed plan” that missed the opportunity of taking advantage of Kirklees’ position at the heart of the “northern powerhouse”.
He said: “Their lack of ambition and vision sees northern Kirklees treated as little more than a dormitory for Leeds with the increased pressure on already congested roads and inadequate infrastructure and a huge concentration of developments in the top right-hand quarter of the borough.
“Huddersfield, especially the southern part and the valleys, is completely neglected, starved of investment and no proposals to provide significant employment growth here merely adding yet more commutes and more congestion on a failing road infrastructure.”