Wednesday, 23 October 2013

Andrew Cooper - LDF Speech to Full Council - 23/10/2013

The Yorkshire & Humber Regional Spatial Strategy - its not dead its just resting!
When we last discussed the LDF at this Council the Green Group voted against it and at the time we did that on the basis that we would call the Tories bluff on housing numbers. The Conservative Leader Cllr Light maintained that we had total flexibility to determine our own housing numbers and that there was no threat of government intervention to force us to have higher numbers in line with the now supposedly abolished Regional Spatial Strategy. On that basis he proposed a target even lower than that proposed by the Labour administration which was itself way below that required under the Yorkshire and Humber Regional Spatial Strategy. The truth is that the ‘abolished’ RSS is a Zombie policy – dead but somehow still alive with the evidence base for the housing numbers in it somehow valid despite its abolition.
So now we have the Government’s bureaucrat from the Quango the  Planning Inspectorate in Bristol saying Kirklees have not fulfilled the ‘duty to co-operate’ with neighbouring Councils and therefore we are being ‘advised’ to withdraw the Local Development Framework.  When the LDF was being drawn up there were no guidelines on how to fulfil the duty to cooperate so how could the Council comply. It would be like playing Monopoly for the first time without any rules and not being told how many of those houses had to be put on the board.
In reality this has nothing at all to do with the duty to cooperate. Does anyone here really believe that if the housing numbers were in line with the extortionately high figures in the RSS that we would be in this position now? Only apparently the Tories but this is a deception just as the ‘duty to co-operate’ is a diversion.
The truth is that we are being asked today to withdraw this plan by the Governments Planning Inspectorate or they will declare it invalid. It is like Kirklees is standing on the precipice of a cliff with the Planning Inspector with a gun to our head saying ‘jump’. Well I say ‘shoot’ do your worst. It will demonstrate to everyone that there is no true localism in the Planning process and that it is the Conservatives hand in glove with the developers that is the real threat to our countryside.
So what happens if the Government’s Inspector does fulfil his threat to overturn the plan decided by this Council? Is that it? Is it Game Over? It doesn’t have to be because the Government in the form of Eric Pickles as Conservative Communities Minister can himself overturn the Planning Inspectorate. Only last week he overturned the Planning Inspectorate by opposing a solar farm in Sussex that had been approved by the Planning Inspector. It is however possible for Eric Pickles to use his powers for good as well as evil.
The choice today is clear. To withdraw the plan and have even more green space around Kirklees threatened with development OR to hold our nerve with what is by no means a perfect plan but has been decided in a democratic fashion. Our choice is between democracy or the diversion and deception we have seen here from the Conservatives today.

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