Kirklees councillors thrash out LDF deal for Huddersfield, Dewsbury and Batley in 13-hour meeting: Full details here

COUNCILLORS last night agreed a housing plan for Huddersfield for the next 15 years after a stormy 12-hour meeting.

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COUNCILLORS last night agreed a housing plan for Huddersfield for the next 15 years after a stormy 13-hour meeting.

Parties hammered out a compromise which will allow 7,640 new homes in Huddersfield in the next 15 years but none on the green belt.

The groups came to a deal on the Local Development Framework (LDF) after a marathon meeting at Huddersfield Town Hall yesterday.

The compromise will allow 22,470 new homes in Kirklees in the next 15 years, including 2,472 in the towns of south Kirklees. But the only green belt land provided for housing will be in south Dewsbury and Chidswell, between Dewsbury and Batley.

Kirklees Council also agreed in principle last night to release 122 hectares of land for employment use. However, an initial plan to open up five hectares of the Grimescar Valley for industrial development was rejected at yesterdays meeting.

Residents and developers spoke for three hours at yesterday's meeting before acting Director of Place Jacqui Gedman presented the Kirklees officers LDF plan, which would have allowed 25,400 new homes including 500 on green belt land in the Grimescar Valley.

She told councillors: "This is not a plan for how the world feels now, its a plan for the next 15 years."

The political parties then presented their amended plans all of which called for fewer houses than Ms Gedman had proposed.

The minority Labour administration suggested allowing 22,470 new homes, including 950 on green belt land in south Dewsbury.

Labour leader Clr Mehboob Khan said: "We are proposing 3,000 less homes than the officers' proposal. We will ensure we use the green belt sensibly.

"We have a plan that invests in infrastructure, that invests in the future of people in terms of housing and future prosperity but balances these needs with protecting our unique and proud heritage in Kirklees."

Clr Robert Light then presented the Conservatives' proposal, which called for no houses on green belt land and no new land for employment use.

"The claim is that we need 122 hectares of green belt land for industry. We all want to see more jobs, but will sacrificing huge chunks of the green belt achieve that? The demand for new business land is exaggerated," said the Birstall and Birkenshaw man.

Colne Valley Lib Dem Clr Nicola Turner made the case for her party's plan to allow 22,470 homes, including 1,500 on green belt land in Dewsbury and 500 in Chidswell between Dewsbury and Batley.

She stressed the need for new employment land in Kirklees.

"Victorian buildings are no longer fit for business purposes. They are cold, drafty and frequently leak. They cost a fortune to renovate and are often in the wrong location.

"To assume developers will take on small brownfield plots is folly. It didnt happen in the boom years and it certainly isnt going to happen in the grips of a recession.

"You can have the best environment in the world but it doesnt mean a thing if you dont have a job," she said.

The four Greens and two independents suggested allowing just 16,200 new houses by 2028.

Holme Valley North independent Clr Edgar Holroyd-Doveton said: "We've set a more realistic figure of 16,200 new homes based on hard social and economic factors.

"We need to correct the market distortion and make it more expensive to build on green land."

Councillors then had their say on the plans.

Colne Valley Conservative Clr Donna Bellamy spoke against the officers' plan.

She said: "The identity of Slaithwaite and Marsden would disappear. The council merely wants to meet some spurious target without any long-term planning or joined-up thinking."

Lindley Lib Dem Clr Cahal Burke said: "Our amendment would protect the green belt and provisional open land at Grimescar Valley.

"It's not all about green belt if you go to Grimescar Valley you wouldnt know where the provisional open land begins and ends. Lets protect and save all of Grimescar Valley."

Holme Valley South Conservative Clr Donald Firth said: "The Conservative proposals save all the green belt, which is something Labour and the Lib Dems have disgracefully failed to do. Their plan is a missed opportunity and a very poor representation of people's views."

Green leader Clr Andrew Cooper said: "The 16,200 figure that weve got is deliverable. We've not added dubious empty homes figures in our plan."

The Labour amendment was defeated by 39 votes to 25; the Conservative proposal was beaten 45 to 20; the Lib Dem plan went down 14 to 51 and the Green/Independent plan was crushed by 60 votes to five.

The leaders of the four parties then met in private to try to find a compromise.

Labour, the Lib Dems, the Greens and two independents reached a deal, which will allow 500 homes on green belt land in Chidswell and 1,000 in south Dewsbury but none in Huddersfield. The Conservatives opposed the deal.

Councillors have now agreed the broad principles of the LDF. However, a detailed plan will not go to consultation with the public until the Regional Spatial Strategy is abolished in spring 2012.

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LDF

CAMPAIGNERS from across Huddersfield urged councillors to protect their areas during yesterday’s debate about the Local Development Framework (LDF).

Birkby man Philip Sykes called for the Grimescar Valley to be preserved when Kirklees Council decides its blueprint for the next 15 years.

“There is a great variety of wildlife in this wonderful landscape,” he told the council meeting.

“It’s not just an asset for the people who live next door, it’s an asset for the whole town. I ask you to preserve it for future generations.”

John Gilbert, of Save Grimescar Valley, added: “We ask councillors to protect the land at Ainley Top from any future threat.

“Local residents feel strongly about the environmental value of the green belt and greenfield land.”

But Edmund Thornhill, who owns the land, asked councillors to allow development to go-ahead.

His Northern Gateway proposal would lead to 850 new homes, including 500 on green belt land. There would also be five hectares of new business development.

Mr Thornhill pointed out that his family had owned the land for 26 generations.

He told councillors: “All the land is owned by me which guarantees certainty and deliverability. I’m not a developer, I’m a landowner with a social conscience.”

Mr Thornhill said his plan would deliver “jobs, jobs, jobs” to Huddersfield.

He added: “I will gift a country park to the community. The woodland would be opened up with new footpaths and cycle routes.”

Robert Bamforth from Kirklees Community Action Network called for a reduction in the overall housing target for the next 15 years.

“The figure of 25,400 is too high,” he said. “Green fields in Kirklees are not renewable. We should not squander them.”

Robert Pepper, from Meltham Community Action Network, also spoke against the council’s LDF proposal.

He warned: “If I had my way, there would be a united campaign of opposition when it’s your turn to face the ballot box.”

Colin Hill from Honley Civic Society urged councillors to protect fields in the Holme Valley.

“We’re concerned about the proposals for the area that would lead to the loss of open land,” he said.

“The villages of the Holme Valley should be protected as the green lungs of Kirklees.”

Richard Graham from Skelmanthorpe Action Group spoke out against the LDF proposal to develop 16 hectares of employment land at Clayton West.

“How is the site at Clayton West going to compete with Junction 39 at Calder Grove in Wakefield which is smack bang on the M1?

“If you want to move your business close to a motorway network, surely you would want to be right next to it rather than several miles away in Clayton West.”

Huddersfield chartered town planner David Storrie called on councillors to release green belt land – but not in the large areas proposed by Kirklees officers.

“The green belt is too tightly drawn, it’s strangling the area,’’ he said. “If you are serious about growth you need to relax the green belt.

“However, I don’t subscribe to the large-scale plans for Ainley Top, Cooper Bridge and Chidswell.”

COUNCIL leader Mehboob Khan described the delay to the implementation as “frustrating” but said it was “unavoidable”.

He blamed the Conservative/Liberal Democrat government delaying the axing of the Regional Spatial Strategies (RSS) which were introduced in 2004 and provided regional level planning frameworks for the regions of England outside London.

Clr Khan explained: “With the Government only telling us four weeks ago that they were not abolishing Regional Spatial Strategy (RSS) until Spring, we are in a situation now that could leave us open to legal challenge unless we accept the legal advice we have and delay final sign off of the strategy.

“However, this debate is still very important. It is vital that all the parties are able to debate their proposals in public and listen to the public on this important matter which means a lot to communities across Kirklees.

“While on the face of it it would seem sensible to accept that we should go forward and agree our core strategy because it will not be implemented until after the abolition of RSS, it would leave us in an unlawful position if we did so.

“So while we cannot proceed to a final conclusion now, we can debate and agree the important principles that will form the basis of the final proposal.

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