Top Tory hits out at £600m LDF claims

CLAIMS that £600m of investment will come to Dewsbury by sacrificing green belt land is tenuous at best, a councillor has said. Tory leader Coun Robert Light (Birstall and Birkenshaw) ridiculed the idea that developers are to swoop following last week’s planning decision. Green belt land at Chidswell and Thornhill Lees is to be made available under a Local Development Framework (LDF) plan that gained Kirklees Council approval. The ruling Labour cabinet and the Lib Dems, who both voted in favour, claim new homes and industry built there would bring £600m to Dewsbury. Construction costs, investment in roads and schools, new jobs and increased spending in shops from a bigger population make up the total. Coun Light, whose group opposed the LDF, said: “Tenuous is being kind to it. I don’t think developers are just waiting to come in. “They’ve probably arrived at that figure by thinking up a number and doubling it. We had the best idea for Dewsbury’s regeneration, but it was voted down. “It was based on creating an enterprise zone along Bradford Road between Dewsbury and Batley, where there are many brownfield sites.” Lib Dem leader Coun Kath Pinnock said the Tory plan was knocked back over what she claims is confusion about the number of empty homes in Kirklees. An acute housing shortage, in which there are thousands of people on the waiting list for council flats, was one of the drivers for the LDF plan. “The Tories say there’s 11,000 empty homes,” she said. “The real figure is about 3,000, and of those only about 1,500 have been empty for two years. “Homes can be unoccupied for many reasons, including probate. The real hardcore of properties empty for at least four years is only about 600. “When you realise there aren’t 11,000 empty homes, the only reluctant conclusion you can draw is that we have to build on green belt.” In a twist, the LDF decision is not final as the Government is to change the planning laws next year. Another vote could be held in June. Coun Light backed campaigners in their fight to get the LDF overturned and added: “I thought the vote last week was a shambles. “Many members of the public from across the borough spoke out against, but it was clear by the end that they’d just been ignored. “But there are chances to change things, starting with the local elections in May, when people can vote for a party that won’t build on green belt.”

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