It has been revealed that 30,000 new homes are needed in Kirklees in the next 15 years.
And a top councillor says that is a conservative estimate as Kirklees Council embarks on a major housing, business growth and land use debate.
Kirklees has just started a six-week informal consultation on its Local Plan – the new Local Development Framework – which will set out what land will be made available for homes and industry.
It will identify sites to protect from development, plus improvements to roads, schools and shops.
Clr Peter McBride, Cabinet member for Investment and Regeneration, said: “We desperately need a Plan. We have proposals for major transport improvements, but to meet those we’ve got to have an approved plan.
“It’s a chicken and the egg situation.”
It will be 2017 before a Plan is adopted and Clr McBride said it is due to the time needed to consult the public and neighbouring councils to make sure every box is ticked before the Plan is submitted for the scrutiny of a Planning Inspector.
It was at that stage the former LDF came undone which left Kirklees in its current limbo of being unable to defend land against development.
A brief search shows there are more than 1,000 houses and 300 flats for sale in Kirklees, which has led some to question why more houses are needed.
Clr McBride explained: “We are planning for the next 15 years, not for just one year. We’re talking about needing 2,000 new homes a year. That’s not a figure pulled out of a head, it’s based on population growth, immigration and family units.
“Years ago there used to be three, four, five people living in a house but now there are more people living alone or in couples so the demand is different.”
Asked if an emerging Plan will offer Kirklees protection against unwanted development Clr McBride said: “We will try to hold the line. We’ll have to analyse everything but we haven’t got a five year land supply so we can only hold the line so much.”
Clr McBride admits there may be conflict between the wants and needs of developers and the community, saying it’s the council’s “job to resolve that conflict.”
A divide in housing numbers saw the LDF fail, and Clr McBride hopes the issue won’t become a political hot potato.
“All members have to take responsibility, not to play to the gallery and to get this sorted,” he said. “We do recognise the value of greenbelt ... but there are green places within urban areas which are as vital to people than those surrounded by countryside. Ideally we want both.”
Asked if the greenbelt was at risk, Clr McBride said: “It’s an extremely important concept. There has got to remain space between conurbations between Cleckheaton and Bradford; Huddersfield and Elland; Dewsbury and Ossett, and parts of Leeds.
“I can’t say for certain what is going to happen, but I’m conscious of the need to keep that space.”