Calderdale Housing Campaign launches today

Friday, July 15, 2005

Fear over out-of-control development - in Hebden Bridge and throughout Calderdale - sparks new campaign for affordable and sustainable housing


Over the last few months the gradual appreciation that Calderdale Council has already approved the district's entire allocation of housing planning permissions for the period through to 2016 - 12 years before it should have done - has started to send ripples of concern through a range of organisations and local groups. Equally worrying is the current scale of development, with large housing schemes being proposed in many parts of the district. Behind this lies a basic fear - has the Council lost control over housing supply in Calderdale?

As a result communities and individuals across Calderdale are getting increasingly concerned about the subject of housing - and for good reason. As the price of houses keeps on rising, where will first-time buyers or people wanting to both live and work locally, find a place to live? As more and more houses keep on being built, are green or precious sites now being menaced by development that threatens to change the character of local communities? As more and more employment sites and former community facilities are converted to residential, where will the buildings for social activities or starter businesses be found? And how sustainable is all this development?

To encourage a wider debate on this vital issue, a new campaign is being launched today (Friday 15th July) - the 'Calderdale Housing Campaign' - promoted by Calderdale Friends of the Earth, and supported by Calderdale Sustainability Forum. The suggested objectives of the campaign are attached, but they are being thrown open to debate as part of the initiative. The campaign has its own website - - and will be providing information about all aspects of housing, and a place for people to express their opinions.

At the same time, the campaign will offer a forum for residents groups concerned about individual housing developments - a particular example being the current actions of Britannia Developments at Delph Mills, Luddendenfoot whose scheme started with the felling of 60 mature trees in a wildlife corridor before planning permission was even applied for.

Now is the right time for this campaign. On Monday, the Council Cabinet is to consider starting consultation on a housing strategy for 2005-10, and more demanding affordability criteria. At the same time, Calder Valley MP Chris McCafferty, who raised the issue of affordable housing in the House of Commons on 6th July, is suggesting that the threshold at which the affordability requirement applies in new developments should be reduced, and that there should be a deferment of large new developments, particularly as there are few flat, viable sites left in the upper Valley. This follows a request of Friends of the Earth at the UDP public inquiry in May that the Council should consider introducing a moratorium on new housing development.

Said campaign coordinator Anthony Rae: "This campaign could not have been launched at a better time. It is good news that the Council is about start a wide-ranging consultation on housing affordability, and its overall housing strategy, and the new campaign will be able to facilitate a well-informed debate. But we also have to think about the sustainability of all this new housing, and the environmental impacts of individual housing developments, which are threatening green spaces and local communities across Calderdale. We hope all sorts of organisations and community groups will want to join in, because we have to make housing in Calderdale more sustainable and affordable."

For further information contact Anthony Rae
Tel: 01422 845061/ Mobile: 07876 630528

Objectives of the Calderdale Housing Campaign

Important Note: these are draft Objectives only, for discussion by all the participants in the Campaign, and for amendment as it evolves. They are the starting point for our debate.

There are many signs of what could be called a 'crisis' affecting housing in Calderdale. Such are the continuing pressures of rising market demand, which have not been checked by the planning system, that the district's entire housing allocation of planning permissions - set at the regional level, of new housing units required to be provided every year until 2016 - has already been completely allocated - 12 years before it should have been.

What will happen now? - as housing developers continue to bring forward scheme after scheme; as the provision of all other social infrastructure (schools, surgeries, transport) fails to keep pace with the increasing number of houses; and as obtaining a dwelling to buy or rent becomes ever more difficult for first-time buyers and lower income households?

How sustainable are all these new homes, and the existing housing stock?; and is Calderdale being turned into a commuter or dormitory suburb for Leeds and Manchester?

How can we make housing in Calderdale more sustainable and affordable?

  • As a matter of urgency, Calderdale Council should take steps to regain control over the approval of additional housing units in the district - so that this is in accordance with the annual requirements of regional and Calderdale policy - after a period of major oversupply.

  • Because the Council in recent years has approved an excess of housing planning permissions, a general restraint or even moratorium on new permissions should now be applied - subject to exceptions in order to meet the requirements of affordability and regeneration.

  • The Council should stop approving the excessive number of housing planning permissions on 'windfall' sites that it is doing at present, which is also encouraging developers to target inappropriate sites with excessive development.

  • The Council needs to set out clearly a housing supply strategy for Calderdale that identifies (i) its approach to the provision of new housing units over the next ten years; (ii) what mechanisms it intends to use in order to control the number of new houses; and (iii) how it intends to deal with the issues of housing affordability and sustainability. The Council should consult widely on the implications of this new housing strategy.

  • Following the forthcoming publication of the Calderdale housing needs survey, the Council should consider increasing the proportion of the units within any development that are required to be affordable and decrease the threshold of development size to which this applies. This would also have the effect of controlling the excessive number of planning applications.

  • The Council should take immediate steps to improve the sustainability and energy efficiency of new and existing housing - including the better enforcement of existing building regulations - and to prevent an unsustainable pattern of development whereby Calderdale becomes a 'commuter suburb'.

  • The Council should take a much stronger line to protect greenfield or 'green' sites from housing development, and to resist predatory or inappropriate housing applications by developers which will adversely affect the character of communities. The Council should also take steps to prevent developers from starting development prematurely, and removing trees etc on prospective sites in order to facilitate planning application - using mechanisms such as Planning Contravention Notices and Temporary Stop Notices made available under the Planning Acts.

  • The Council should consider immediately preparing a Supplementary Planning Document to start to implement their new strategy, and to give clear signals to housing developers as to how they should operate responsibly within Calderdale.

  • We call on housing developers to act responsibly in the current situation of excessive housing development, and only to bring forward schemes that are much more affordable, sustainable, and only of a scale appropriate to the site and community within which they will be located.

  • We also call on communities across Calderdale to join in this campaign for affordable and sustainable housing, and to prevent excessive and inappropriate housing development - and to contact their local councillors to urge their support for this campaign.


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