Friday, 14 October 2011

Jobs, Homes and Cows

Jobs and homes and that's it!
I've long had an issue with the way  Kirklees Council has approached the Local Development Framework. I remember sitting in a Kirklees Party Leaders meeting and seeing the proofs of the consultation document entitled 'Jobs and Homes'. Immediately I said that planning was about much more than simply 'jobs and homes'. It was about transport , agriculture, amenity, quality of life. Somehow it reminded me of one of those Labour Conference slogans in the 80s. Did they ever have one called 'Jobs, Homes and Peace'. I  probably just imagined it. What is really striking (and frankly depressing) is how similar Council Leader Mehboob Khan's approach is to the Coalition Goverment is on planning policy. When Labour Cllr Khan and Conservative Communities Minister Eric Pickles see a field they see people building on it and pound signs. They both see a field ripe for development that once it has a house built on it has a monetary value, a quick bung for allowing development, some short term jobs in construction and a revenue stream to replace some of the central government cuts. It is a narrow, unimaginative and rubbish concept of land that devalues our local environment.

In planning policy at the national level  I've had a very small victory recently in the Local Government Association's response to the consultation on the National Planning Policy Framework. It is a much reviled document and the Coalition Government has attacked some of the 'anti growth/anti capitalist' orgainsations that have had the temerity to oppose them. These include the National Trust, English Heritage and the Campaign to Protect Rural England. The LGA has to balance its responses to consultations against the competing views of different political parties and the ruling Conservative Group. I am the Independent Cllrs group rep on the LGA Environment and Housing Board (the Greens are included with Independents). Of course the LGA response is much more restrained than the Green Party's but I have got the following wording included:

"It should also be recognised that undeveloped land can have a sustained lasting economic value in terms of agriculture, tourism and amenity and can be strongly related to the quality of life of the people in the area."

Jobs , Homes and Cows
There can be real value in land which is not simply related to sticking some huge 'shopping shed 'on it erected by some monopolistic company which will take most of the economic value of their work out of the area (and probably out of the country as well via tax avoidance). These sort of developments are exactly the sort of rubbish approach that gives politics a bad name, creating cynicsm and alienating communities, but it doesn't have to be like this. We have a prime (beef?) example on our doorstep with Stirley Farm in Newsome. This council land was disused agricultural fields with derelict buildings. It is now managed by Yorkshire Wildlife Trust who are developing a community farm and local food projects on the farmland around Newsome and below Castle Hill. It enjoys huge local support, links well with the Growing Newsome group and is rapidly being embraced as part of the tapestry that makes up the Newsome community. It is 'development'. Jobs are being created in paid employment, training and voluntary work. Local food is being grown and through outreach work local people are being shown how to grow their own fruit and vegetables and thereby helping lower their household costs. This 'development' is preserving and improving the local area in harmony with the community in a way that simply 'bunging up' another Barratt estate or yet another sodding Tesco's never would or could. Stirley Farm has real value, is valued locally and today has cows. The first 3 beef shorthorns arrived today with another dozen on the way to help build the herd. This is a small part what a real 'Local Development Framework' that people could support and one that would enhance rather than threaten their quality of life.


  1. By what regulation can the Council stop Councillors discussing the LDF before the 'big date?'

  2. So why didn't they?

  3. When attending public meetings on the LDF one got the impression that the councillors were instructed not to put their views forward. One said that if they opposed the LDF publicly it would 'prejudice' the matter when they came to vote on it. Whas that the case or were they allowing the public the space to express their views?

  4. OK I understand now. No I see no reason why Councillors can't express views and opinions on the LDF nor do I believe it would prejudice the decision. It is not a particular planning application. Sounds like a convenient position to take.