Mega-homes plan critics ‘obstructed by system’

Mega-homes plan critics ‘obstructed by system’

A LAWYER has lodged an official complaint after campaigners found it hard to have their say on Kirklees Council’s 31,000-home development masterplan. 

Chidswell Action Group’s legal representative Charlotte McKay made the move following a public consultation on proposed modifications to the Local Plan.

The plan is Kirklees’s blueprint for housing and industry development in the district through until 2031.

In June independent planning inspector Katie Child revealed that she had sanctioned all the major plots Kirklees had allocated for homes.

Proposals for more than 4,000 houses on green belt land between Mirfield and Ravensthorpe, dubbed Dewsbury Riverside, and around 1,500 at the Chidswell site in Dewsbury were among those approved with few changes.

Many of the alterations focused on how many houses can be built per year, to reduce the impact on local infrastructure. A public consultation exercise began in August and closed in October. 

The official complaint relates to the difficulty residents and action groups experienced in lodging their objections to the suggested modifications from the planning inspector.

Submissions could only be made via the council’s online portal, not in writing or via email.

Chidswell Action Group chairman Mark Eastwood said: “We are extremely disappointed that Kirklees Council made the remarkable decision not to accept any representations from local residents by email or letter and only allowed them to lodge comments through their cumbersome and overly complicated online system.

“For the council to dictate to hard-working council taxpayers as to how they can make their submissions is totally unacceptable.”

The Chidswell Action Group were not the only organisation to voice their concerns about the difficulty in submitting responses to the council and the inspector. Kirklees Community Action Network (KCAN), who represent action groups across Kirklees, have also complained. 

KCAN spokesman Robert Bamforth said: “Many of the groups in KCAN had severe difficulties with the ‘online only’ system, which seemed to have been purposely designed to prevent meaningful criticism of the proposed modifications to the Local Plan.

“It was quite clearly a huge barrier to public participation. Although the council did eventually relent and accept the input that had been made in other, more sensible formats, we are bound to wonder just how many individuals and groups simply gave up in disgust at the process and declined to take part in the consultation.” 

A decision on whether the Local Plan can proceed is expected in the next few weeks.

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