Sunday, 20 November 2011

Greens join with Holme Valley Independents on Local Development Framework

Grimescar Valley - saved from development by all Parties

The 16200 figure presented in the Green Party/Independent amendment has a strong
evidence base supported by economic projections, past performance on housing completions, the impact of Coalition Government policies on the construction and housing sectors and the Communities and Local Government Paper, 'Estimating Housing Need' (2010).

Current economic projections for growth show 1.5% this year and 2.5% next year according to the government's own Office for Budget Responsibility. Historically these figures have been highly optimistic. This projection compares to the an annual growth rates averaging 2.68% between 1992–2007 according to the IMF. The British Chambers of Commerce Economic Forecast in March this year said:

“Further forceful cuts in the budget deficit, the unresolved problems in the banking sector, and the financial fragility in the household sector will delay a return to pre‐crisis growth rates. Over the next 4‐5 years, growth of UK GDP is likely to average just over 2% per annum, considerably less than the 3.0% average growth recorded in the 15‐year period 1993‐2007”

Coalition Government cuts of 60% in the Homes and Communities Agency is going to significantly reduce the levels of social housing and shared ownership housing available. The viability of younger people being able to enter the housing market will be increasingly stifled due to the impact of tuition fees which will mean that when students leave college and start receiving the sort of salaries they would need to consider the purchase of a property they will start having to repay those fees.

While we recognise that there is an increasing social need for more housing, the mere projection of house building figures in the absence of interventionist social and economic policies will not create the construction of needed housing units. Rather it will give greater licence to the speculative builder of executive properties on green field sites. Without changes in government policy which will support the development of social housing, an open supply‐side private housing market cannot solve this problem, but only create distortions of excessive building on green field sites whilst leaving the overall stock of needed housing low.

Simply making land available in its own terms will not deliver new housing so the LDF’s own targets are not realisable due to the underlying economic conditions the UK is in and the lack of policies to stimulate an economic revival and develop social housing.

Past performance on housing completions does not support the targets given in the LDF document. The average number of completions between 2000 and 2010 was 1248 per year and even this level is skewed due to particularly high years. Expectations of mainly 1500 completions per year across the plan are clearly unattainable.

If our figures were to be adopted this would require no housing development on land that is currently in the greenbelt. We wish to see development in Grimescar, Honley, Meltham and Brockholes taken out of the plan. Just as the Local Development Framework has proposed to remove greenbelt status from nominated areas we would add land below Castle Hill bordered by High Lane and New Laithe Hill which is directly adjacent to greenbelt land and part of the backdrop to the historic and iconic Victoria Tower on Castle Hill.

Like the Government asserts we also believe in Localism and support the concept of Neighbourhood Development Plans where communities establish what land they would like to see developed in their area above and beyond those targets set in the LDF. Our fear is that the Government's belief in localism is only skin deep and that the Government through the Planning Inspectorate would favour developers rather than communities.

We believe that where previously undeveloped land is to be developed that this should be constructed to a higher environmental standard than those proposed in building regulations in terms of energy performance and sustainable urban drainage.

We recognise that there is value in the juxtaposition of new design and new technology with heritage assets such as modern glass atriums on church buildings and solar panels being utilised on older properties and we would expect the LDF to include policies that support that approach.

Overall the Kirklees Local Plan should not only consider the urban settlements on a quantitative basis, but qualitatively take into account their unique features of these different communities taking into account their urban, rural and environmental factors . Hence more detailed and specific polices should be developed for the Huddersfield Hub, Dewsbury, North Kirklees and the valleys in the South of Kirklees.

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