A PLAN for nearly 30,000 new homes around Huddersfield could go back to the drawing board.
Kirklees Council consulted residents earlier this year over its Local Development Framework (LDF), which could lead to 28,000 extra houses by 2028.
But a special investigation has been launched into the two-month consultation – labelled a “sham” by one leading councillor.
And it revealed failings – including an admission that thousands of homes never got leaflets about the plans.
Kirklees officers compiled a detailed blueprint to cope with population growth in the next 15 years.
The LDF proposes increasing housing numbers by more than a fifth in Kirkburton, Holmfirth, Linthwaite, Scissett and Clayton West, Denby Dale, Skelmanthorpe and Dewsbury.
Kirklees consulted residents on the blueprint from December until February.
But opponents of the LDF claim the process was flawed, with thousands of residents not receiving an information leaflet through their door.
The council’s Overview and Scrutiny Management Committee will examine the consultation process next week.
Officers have drawn up a report for the committee explaining what happened during the two-month consultation.
Four hundred people attended seven public meetings about the LDF across the district.
The report admits that a stormy meeting in Meltham on February 3 had been “the most challenging” and had gone from an information session to a public meeting at the insistence of some councillors.
Officers suggest that future consultations should have “less reliance on ‘traditional’ potentially unstructured meetings.”
The report adds that Kirklees decided to pay Mailbox Nationwide £12,000 to deliver LDF information leaflets to every home in the district, rather than posting them at a cost of £43,000.
But the report says: “Mailbox Nationwide has subsequently confirmed that 172,975 leaflets were delivered. Regrettably over 14,000 homes would not have received a leaflet.”
Robert Bamforth, a spokesman for anti-LDF group Kirklees Community Action Network, disputed the figures yesterday.
He said: “In excess of 90% of people have not received the leaflet.
“We’ve held straw polls at the start of meetings where only one or two people out of 100 have received the leaflet.”
Clr Robert Light, who asked for the special investigation, agreed.
The leader of the opposition Conservatives said: “I was at a public meeting in Dewsbury a few weeks ago where only two of the 150 people present had received the leaflet.
“It’s the same wherever you go: people say ‘what leaflet?’
“Residents are very angry about the arrogant way the council has conducted itself.
“People did not get the information they were promised. The consultation process was a complete sham.”
The Overview and Scrutiny Management Committee will discuss the consultation at a meeting at Huddersfield Town Hall at 10am on Tuesday.
The committee could ask Kirklees to start the process again.
Clr Kath Pinnock, who leads the opposition Lib Dems, backs the investigation.
She said: “I think it was a good idea to ask if it’s been a good consultation.
“We feel that the process didn’t reach enough people, for whatever reason.
“We’re concerned about the quality of the consultation because people didn’t seem to know it existed.”
Clr Andrew Cooper, who leads the four-strong Greens on Kirklees, said he was concerned that the LDF was not looking at wider issues.
He said: “I was unhappy with it from the start because it was entitled ‘Jobs and Homes’.
“The LDF should also be about quality of life in the area, about transport and about the use of green space.
“We’ve got to make sure that we’re not simply building huge houses which are not going to allow young people to get their first home.”
But Kirklees leader Clr Mehboob Khan defended the consultation yesterday.
The Labour man said: “We put more resources into this consultation than any previous planning exercise, sending a leaflet detailing the proposals to every home, including the documents in Kirklees Together which also goes to every home, and organising public meetings.
“The approach was adopted in full consultation with other political groups. However, obviously if concerns have been raised we must take those seriously and learn from them so we continue to improve”.