IT has been reported that Kirklees Council has launched an investigation into the connection between one of its senior planning officers and a national property development company called Princegate Estates.
This comes at a time when the council’s LDF Core Strategy has been roundly criticised and public confidence in the council is at an all-time low.
It would be inappropriate to prejudge the conduct or outcome of the council’s investigation into this particular case, but in truth it is probably a symptom of a wider and much more complex issue.
The public are entitled to know just how much self-centred influence developers have had on the LDF draft core strategy, given that the proposed LDF housing ‘target’ is 50% higher than the average number of houses actually built per annum over the last 10 years and that the proportion of housing development Kirklees expects to be built on brown field land is almost half that proposed in Sheffield and Calderdale.
We know that Kirklees Council has very close ties with developers and there have been joint working parties to prepare a Strategic Housing Land Availability Assessment (SHLAA). Under the SHLAA, landowners and developers submitted ‘no constraints’ housing proposals that would dwarf those in the LDF Core Strategy.
Our questions are: Why was it necessary to exclude the public from the SHLAA and why have the council repeatedly delayed publishing the findings of the SHLAA? How much influence has the SHLAA had on the LDF Core Strategy and why is the whole planning process, system and culture so heavily biased in favour of developers? Why have the public been so cynically squeezed out of the process by the developers, politicians, planners and council legal advisers?
Ever since 1909 the prime purpose of the planning system has been to protect communities and the environment from unacceptable development. It beggars belief that in the last 10 years the original purpose of the planning system has been subverted towards providing opportunities for developers and a vehicle for delivering national and local government policies on housing and regeneration.
The bottom line is: when are Kirklees Council going to put the focus back on protecting communities and the environment?
Kirklees Community Action Network
Plans gang awry
AS if the recent LDF ‘consultation’ debacle had not done enough to discredit the whole project, it now emerges that a senior Kirklees planning officer closely involved with the LDF also had allegedly close links to a property development company.
This is not to say that there is anything illegal here, but there does appear to be a prima facie conflict of interests. It has been reported elsewhere that Kirklees Council were made aware of the situation on January 20 this year and the officer concerned has been moved to duties not directly connected to the LDF. This did not prevent said officer from responding to an LDF-related query, by me, on February 8.
I make no allegations of impropriety. But our council should be able to demonstrate that the whole LDF process has been conducted in an objective and professional manner. There is already a very large question mark hanging over the design and implementation of the consultation process, which itself casts doubt on the will of the council to actually listen to the people.
I and others have raised specific technical questions, both directly and on these pages, regarding the evidence base used to arrive at projections for population growth. These have not to date been answered.
Inexplicably, Kirklees has proposed to use a higher proportion of Green Belt and greenfield land than is the case for similar areas, and have gone against governmental advice for the prioritisation of brownfield.
Because Green Belt is more profitable for developers to exploit, it is vitally important that Kirklees is able to demonstrate beyond doubt that the plans have not been unduly influenced by those most likely to gain financially. At the moment this is not self-evident.
£41 less for OAPs
I HAVE just received a letter from Kirklees Council informing me it is discontinuing a discount in council tax for the over 65s. Would the Chief Executive care to let us know if he is offering a reduction in his salary to help meet the council’s budget deficiency? Perhaps £41 a year may not be a lot to him, but to a pensioner it is a lot of money
Eleanor J Sullman
I WAS recently involved in an accident on Cloth Hall Street in Huddersfield town centre on the morning of February 23 which saw me knocked over by a van and require hospital treatment.
While I waited for the emergency services to arrive I was helped by several concerned members of the public.
I am not aware of the names of any of these kind people, but I wish to thank them for the way in which they came to my assistance, more than one even being so kind as to remove their coat to use as a head rest and impromptu blanket in the inclement weather conditions.
The same also goes for the two paramedics who attended the scene, in addition to the staff at the accident and emergency unit at Huddersfield Royal Infirmary.
Happily I am now on the mend, thanks in no small part to the actions of the individuals listed above to whom I shall always be greatly indebted.
The incident even merited a news brief in the Examiner, and although the accident did feel to age me somewhat. I remain a sprightly 77-year-old, not 78 as stated in the report.
Show Tesco who’s boss
THE time has now come for Kirklees Council’s chief executive to show some bottle and resolve and tell Tesco who is the boss.
We want an indoor bowling facility at our new sports centre for all the hundreds of people who bowl there every week.
In Halifax and Brighouse, Tesco moved to be in the town centre and provided them with a new clubhouse, two greens, cricket and rugby fields. All we are asking is for indoor bowling.
A hole new philosophy
VARLEY Road, Slaithwaite to Meltham has been resurfaced from top to bottom. Swan Lane at Lockwood is going through the same process. How long before someone comes along to dig them up? I say three to seven months!
DESPITE the fact that the Kirklees planning department supported local residents in their belief that the construction of two 18m, 11Kw wind turbines on green belt land at Nettleton Hill, Golcar was inappropriate, the development is to go ahead because in the opinion of the planning inspector ‘the obvious harm that this development will cause is clearly outweighed by the benefit.’
Having studied the inspector’s report I believe that it contains some errors of reasoning and decision making.
The energy that the turbines will produce is far greater than that required to serve Upper Prospect but the report says the surplus electricity generated would go back in to the national grid. Far from diminishing the proposal, it magnified its benefit.
This is flawed thinking. Taken to its extremes it suggests that even bigger is even better, regardless of where the development is.
The local residents are not totally against the concept of wind turbine generated energy. The main focus of their objections was the proportion and scale of the development.
The report then goes on to say that ‘although the turbines would be taller than the buildings and associated features in Nettleton Hill, the wider area is punctuated by tall telecommunications masts therefore the turbines would not appear as wholly incongruous elements in the landscape’.
The turbines will be nearly twice the height of any other structure in the settlement. The nearest masts are over half a mile away and are of open construction with no moving parts. The turbines will be of solid construction with rotating blades and will therefore have a far greater visual impact.
The presence of other tall structures in the area as an argument to permit the construction of another is akin to arguing there is nothing wrong in someone compounding a crime once it has been committed.
The report suggestion that ‘any visual harm would be assuaged by the fact that the turbines would not be seen in isolation, but as functional objects that clearly relate to the adjoining settlement’ is groundless.
With regard to visual impact, the report says ‘though the turbines may be visible from the windows and gardens of some dwellings in the settlement and the footpath near the site, the turbines would not appear dominant or overbearing’, given that the development is to be near the top of one of the highest points in an about a 30 mile radius, it is impossible to see how they are going to be anything other than the most dominant and overbearing feature imaginable!
The report concludes that ‘the proposal would secure very significant benefits through the generation of electricity from a renewable source and that these benefits clearly outweigh the harm by reason of inappropriateness and very special circumstances exist which justify the development’.
Such a statement would appear to justify the erection of wind turbines just about anywhere in the country, and would then logically see the damming of every river and stream to allow the generation of further ‘beneficial’ renewable energy from hydro electric schemes at the expense of our aquatic ecosystems.
MAY I please through your pages give a huge thank you to the Love Lindley Committee for their superb effort in raising £5,000 for the Guide Dog for the Blind Association.
This money allows them to name their own puppy and to support it for the first year of its life.
After the first year their dog will go into formal training and should become a qualified guide dog toward the latter half of its second year.
I would also like to thank all the shop keepers of Lidget St who participated, and Armitage’s Garden Centre at Birchencliffe for their magnificent support..
Thanks once again to everyone.