A COUNCIL u-turn on ditching a proposed planning strategy was branded an “utter shambles” yesterday (Thurs).
Tory leader Robert Light hit out at moves to drop the Local Development Framework (LDF) in favour of what is known as a ‘Local Plan’.
Kirklees Council considered the idea last year after their LDF proposal was savaged by a Government planning inspector.
They rejected it in favour of submitting a revised LDF – but now they have decided to go with a Local Plan instead.
Both schemes are aimed at controlling how the district’s land is allocated for homes and industrial development up to the year 2028.
Coun Light (Con, Birstall and Birkenshaw) said the u-turn meant the last several months trying to save the LDF had been wasted.
He said: “What we’ve got is an utter shambles. It’s very serious now because people’s livelihoods are being affected.
“We’ve provisional open land that’s being picked off by developers for housing because the council is impotent.
“What we need is a clear timetable for getting things done, not more months of delays and fiddling about.”
A Local Plan would combine the previous LDF core strategy with more specific land allocations.
It would also involve wider consultation with residents and could be in force by 2017 – at least a year earlier than the LDF.
The LDF set aside 122 hectares for employment land and other sites for 22,470 new homes, which could increase by 9,000.
Its collapse means the current Urban Development Plan (UDP), which dates from 1999, is still in force.
Developers are exploiting this by targeting land currently set aside for housing that might be protected in any new plan.
Lib Dem leader Coun Kath Pinnock (Cleckheaton) said: “It’s a major u-turn from the council.
“If they’d gone with a Local Plan to start with they could've been getting on with it for the last year.
“As it is, we're now looking a situation where there’ll be no viable plan in place until 2017.
“That’s three years in which developers can wreak havoc. It’s just plain incompetence from the Labour cabinet.”
Land near the Grade II-listed Lower Blacup Farm in Cleckheaton and the Balderstone Fields in Mirfield are at risk.
Campaigners fighting those schemes welcomed the council u-turn as they hope it will give them a bigger say.
But Keith Andrews, of the Save Mirfield group challenging Bellway Homes over plans for the Balderstone Fields, sounded a note of caution.
He said: “A Local Plan is still three years away and in all that time developers can still play their evil games.”
Mark Eastwood, of the Chidswell Action Group fighting the potential development of fields off Leeds Road in Dewsbury, was equally scathing.
He said: “It would appear the same people in charge of the first failed plan will be responsible for producing the next one.
“With this record of failure, are we really expected to trust the council to get it right in the future?
“What we need is a change of personnel, and for the council to listen to people’s concerns rather than ride roughshod over local opinion.”
Some campaigners claimed Kirklees would still need an LDF as they believe Local Plans are solely to do with housing.
The Press was told by a council spokeswoman a Local Plan covers housing and industry and as such would replace the LDF entirely.
Coun Peter McBride (Lab), cabinet member for place, added officials are preparing a timetable for action.
He said: “Creating a local plan is expected to be the quickest way to provide the necessary framework for planning decisions.
“The alternative would be to revise the LDF and then later submit detailed policy and site allocation proposals.
“Apart from taking longer this would also involve greater risks. The sooner we can reach an agreement the better.”