LDF plans in meltdown

A CONTROVERSIAL planning strategy which would see thousands of new homes built on green belt land could be withdrawn over Kirklees Council incompetence, an MP claims.

Simon Reevell (Con, Dewsbury and Mirfield) spoke out after it was revealed the authority’s Local Development Framework (LDF) is in trouble.

The plan, which all councils have to draw up, governs how land is allocated for new homes and industry until 2028.

Details broke over the Bank Holiday weekend that Kirklees has been told to ‘think again’ by a government planning inspector.

But contrary to some reports that the LDF had been axed, The Press understands it can only be withdrawn by a vote of the full council.

The LDF is already unpopular – of 7,441 responses to a public consultation only 148 backed it unconditionally.

But before protest groups in Chidswell and Thornhill Lees could celebrate the plan’s demise, Council leader Mehboob Khan (Lab) claimed that the Government actually wants thousands more new homes in the planning blueprint. This could see Kirklees having to accommodate up to 29,211 new homes, about a quarter more than the LDF’s current 22,470 figure.

Of the ‘think again’ instruction, Coun Khan conceded that Kirklees had not consulted enough with other councils – which Mr Reevell said was the “real” reason the LDF is in trouble.

The Tory backbencher said: “This was sneaked out over the Bank Holiday weekend and they (Kirklees) have looked for something to blame it on.

“They’ve focused on housing as a way to avoid admitting the real reason is their own incompetence.

“They didn’t consult with other councils and failed to draw up a plan that has the support of the public.”

Details obtained by protesters showed Kirklees had no contact with Leeds City Council or Wakefield Council over plans for Chidswell, Dewsbury.

Green belt land was set aside for industry and housing, which would affect routes around the A653 Leeds Road corridor.

The Freedom of Information request by the Chidswell Action Group was in documents seen by planning inspector Roland Punshon.

His report, which The Press has seen, appears equally critical of housing, lack of consultation and the use of green belt land.

Some 1,500 new homes would be split between green belt sites at Chidswell and across Dewsbury South under the LDF.

There is also 240 hectares of land set aside for industry, including at Cooper Bridge and green belt sites around Birstall and Cleckheaton.

Jan Tate, of the Chidwell Action Group, said: “We welcome the planning inspector’s findings relating to the council’s duty to co-operate.

“We also welcome his wish to see clear objective evidence to justify the use of green belt land when other land is available.

“Both these points were highlighted prominently in our representation to the inspector.”

Coun Khan said Mr Punshon’s ruling means even more Green Belt, along the M62 corridor, could now be at risk.

Sites at Roberttown, Hartshead and Mirfield Moor, though considered for the LDF, were previously ruled out by council officials.

Coun Khan said of Mr Punshon’s report: “It’s a real blow for Kirklees to have this unexpected and worrying response.

“But the reason for it lies with those who now have the ministerís (planning minister Nick Boles) ear.

“Developers are major funders of the Tory party and they were opposed to the abolition of the strategy which dictated housing numbers.

“These developers are now using their influence to re-introduce an increase in housing numbers. Communities in Kirklees will now suffer.”

Mike Wood MP (Lab, Batley and Spen) said: “The Governmentís hunger for more housing will have a direct impact on people in the Spen Valley.”

A Kirklees Council spokeswoman said a new LDF proposal could be ready by December, though what form a review will take is not yet clear.

She added: ìThe Inspectorateís main concerns are the way the proposals were discussed with other authorities and the housing allocation.

“The council is currently considering its options for progressing the Core Strategy, which is important to the long-term planning of development.”

Anyone interested in reading Mr Punshon’s report can do so at www.kirklees.gov.uk/localdevelopment.

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