So here we are again with a vote on the Kirklees Local Plan.
Let’s remember how we got to this point. The last time we had the then Local Development Framework in front of us. That Plan was withdrawn through a vote of this Council due to concerns expressed by the Planning Inspectorate. The reason that was given from the Government Planning Inspector was that we had not fulfilled the ‘duty to cooperate’ with other Local Authorities but in reality the truth was that there were simply not enough houses in the Plan to satisfy Government demands. The Green Party voted not to withdraw the plan, to call the Government’s bluff to show that we didn’t really have any say over how many houses needed to be built in our area. If we had kept the plan then the ball would have been in the Governments court. It would have been up to them to overrule the wishes of our democratically elected Council just as they have done with the Fracking Planning Application that was recently refused by Lancashire County Council. We are not the masters of our own destiny. Government sets the rules of the game and we have to follow.
Between 2008 and 2011 developers gave 3.3 million pounds to the Conservative Party during that time they and later their Government was formulating what became the National Planning Policy Framework where we see the guiding principle behind all Government Policy – the presumption in favour of development. Did the construction industry give money to the Conservative Party because they are philanthropists and it was a toss up between the Tories and the Save the Children Fund who they gave their brass to? Of course not they wanted something in return. Since the Coalition and now a Conservative Government has been in power we have seen a weakening of the planning powers of Local Authorities and a strengthening of the hands of developers. It is because of Conservative Government rules that developers are able without a Local Plan to apply to build anywhere in Kirklees. So we are caught between a rock and a hard place. Produce a Local Plan with more houses than are needed to satisfy rapacious developers or have no plan and let those very same developers have a free hand to put planning applications in anywhere in Kirklees. So I say to the Conservatives this planning shambles is of your own making, your fingerprints are all over it, you’ve taken the money and you have been seen leaving the scene of the crime. So much as it would be convenient to blame the Labour Administration of this Council a Conservative Administration would be in the exact same situation.
So what about the Plan itself. There are some real positives and of course negatives. On the positive side we are very pleased that the Green Belt has been extended down from Castle Hill to the stretch of land bordered by New Laithe Hill and High Lane at Newsome. The people of Taylor Hill Road can rest a little easier knowing the Council will not be pursuing the threat of building housing on their back gardens. In Highfields the Community Orchard bordered by Wentworth Street and Mountjoy Road will be redesignated as a Local Green Space protecting it for local kids and the Community to use as they already are doing. We are disappointed that land at Jackroyd Lane , Newsome has not been removed from the plan as it is part of a green corridor of land leading up to Castle Hill and is part of the Yorkshire Wildlife Trust Stirley Farm Estate. We are however pleased that land at Newsome Mill, the former Stile Common School site, Cambridge Road have been allocated for development. We hope that they will be high quality properties with Passivhaus energy efficiency standards and will be available to people on lower incomes to rent or buy.
We have played a full part as a group negotiating the best we could for the communities we serve and represent. We will continue to do so but let us be under no illusion the negatives here are those created by the policy direction given by this Government. No attempting to wriggle, to shift the blame will wash. This isn’t Labour’s Plan, it’s not really even Kirklees Plan, in reality it isn’t not even the Conservative Government’s Plan but is the Plan of their paymasters - the developers.