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Hebden Bridge/Heptonstall Green Belt threatened

From Anthony Rae

Sunday, 2 December 2012

This time last year Calderdale Friends of the Earth were campaigning about the threat that the government's then proposals to relax our planning framework would create of developers building on greenfield sites. The response, from the Prime Minister downwards, was that our Green Belt (GB) would certainly be protected, but that left the fate of greenfield sites outside the Green Belt uncertain. Their new framework came into force in March and since then they have made further moves to deregulate planning even more, in the mistaken belief that it is planning constraints which are holding back housebuilding rather than a collapse in demand and financing.

As Calderdale rushes to complete a vital stage of its new Local Plan by March 2013 in order to prevent a free-for-all in planning permissions I suspect that most residents of Hebden Bridge won't be aware of the contents of table 6.12 on p.67 of the Council's Preferred Options for their Core Strategy (also available in the Library), which identifies that over the period to 2028 some 250 new dwellings will be required to be built here in Hebden, and estimating that 100% of these will be in the Green Belt; across Calderdale the numbers are 10,500 new dwellings to be provided, 60% or more than 6,000 dwellings in the GB.

Nor are they likely to know that the Local Plan-making process has automatically triggered a review of the GB boundaries which will start in the next few months but which will be influenced by decisions on the location of new housing taken in the Local Plan; consultation on this ends on Friday 14 December. And they're even less likely to have noted the significance of Preferred Options table 10.1 on p.77 which talks about providing a GB boundary which will 'endure for at least 30 years'. Now the 250 new dwellings required to be provided is only up to 2028, whereas 2012 plus 'at least 30 years' stretches to 2042, so an implication of all this is that the new GB boundary about to be consulted on will have to take account of another 90% more new dwellings, thus around 450 in total (any area removed from GB for the 2028-42 period would be protected from development till then).

Having pieced together all that you'll now be thinking: where is the Green Belt round here that could be grabbed for that number of dwellings, bearing in mind the topography and the fact that the GB boundary is tightly drawn around the existing urban area? Well, having looked at the GB map with the planners, my first guess would be around Heptonstall where there are lots of flat green fields next to the settlement boundary, but there will be other vulnerable areas. Additionally there are maybe ordinary greenfield sites at risk somewhere.

So this would be the eventual local consequence of the Coalition Government's undermining of the planning system in the name of 'localism' but which in reality is a far greater central imposition on local communities than ever before. FOE is not a party political organisation but when we recently asked Calder Valley MP Craig Whittaker what was the value of the government promise to protect the Green Belt when in fact it could be grabbed in practice he didn't seem too concerned. Maybe now that local consequences are starting to emerge he might change his mind but the juggernaut of the new planning framework is already rolling and cannot be stopped. And if you think that the situation in Hebden is concerning spare a thought for the Green Belt in Brighouse (sites for 1,000 dwellings required) and Halifax (around 3,750 dwellings), and more on top for employment land. Across Calderdale a new GB boundary to 2042 would have to take well in excess of 1 square mile of land out of Green Belt.

You can find out more and ask questions at the Council's consultation meeting as part of the Ward Forum on Tuesday 4th December (drop in from 4pm; presentation at 6.45pm) in the Town Hall.

From William Brown

Sunday, 2 December 2012

Well I hope the meeting in HB is better attended than the one in Todmorden Town Hall, when there were only 5 members of the public, plus the community policeman.

Also Todmorden is to get 630 new homes and it does not have the benefit of Green Belt, the only place in West and South Yorkshire not to benefit fom this.

Todmorden has some odd status called "The Area around Todmorden". Not the same as Green Belt where the presumption is against development but Area around Tod has presumption for development.

Precious little interest shown up here in Tod about the future; I hope you manage to stir up some down there.

From Cllr Jonathan Timbers

Sunday, 2 December 2012

Please may I remind you that there will be an opportunity to view and ask questions about Calderdale's local plan on Tuesday 4 December at Hebden Bridge Town Hall, satring at 4PM. There will be a discussion at the Ward Forum which begins at 6.45PM.

You can view the plan here

I'm working my way through it currently and have mixed feelings about it. On the plus side, the section on Hebden Bridge recognises the need for more affordable housing and there are sections in the document which acknowledge the value of SMEs in semi-rural locations and promise to enhance local markets. However, the plan lacks imagination and foresight in respect of economic development and sustainability and says little about local food production or renewable energy generation. It also fails to recognise the potential for further infrastructure investment in Hebden Bridge and Mytholmroyd's visitor economy. Of concern is the continued acceptance of manufacturing decline and the lack of interest in supporting businesses of this ilk in the Western part of the borough (manufacturing accounts for 30% of Calder Ward's employment, twice that of Halifax).

There is also limited recognition of the problems that isolated deprived communities face. Her Majesty's Inspector of Schools (i.e. head of OFSTED) in his annual report for 2011/12 states that the most stubborn attainment gaps occur in schools where 20% or less are entitled to free school meals. This indicates that poor families in well-off areas face additional barriers. Given that the plan recognises a significant skills gap in Calderdale, more thought might be given to tackling those barriers, which are likely to include accessing work and training as well as quality schooling (the latter being outside of the remit of the plan).

Also, despite the fact that the increase in the proportion of young people in the borough are likely to be brought about by migration (i.e. immigration), not much has been said about integrating communities. Little is said also about building homes which people can stay in once they get older and/or develop mobility/ sensory impairments, despite the huge increases predicted in the proportion of over 65s in the borough.

These are just some initial thoughts, but please read the plan and come along on Tuesday. Your opinions are important and help your local representatives to form their own views.

Finally, the HebWeb has kindly pointed out Anthony Rae's post to me, which I have noted, with interest.

From Cllr Janet Battye

Monday, 3 December 2012

Thanks, Anthony, for your helpful comments on this. It is really important that people read the infomration, come along (if they can) to the exhibition tomorrow (Tues) afternoon and join in the discussion at the Ward Forum tomorrow evening.

Calderdale Council has been working on this plan for sometime now and there has already been early consultation on some aspects of it, but it's important that it's now drawn to a conclusion, so I do hope that people read it, think about it and make their views known.

Where we live is important to us all and this Plan should set the context for future changes in the use of the land and new building. The Green Belt and Conservation Areas are part of that.

Local areas - Towns and Villages - also need their own local Neighbourhood Plan, linking into Calderdale's Plan, because together they should set the framework for any future developments.

And I think that we need a balance between what we can do with our houses without needing permission or regulation, and where "permissions" start. Our buildings need to be safe (hence the role of Building Regulations and Control) and well thought-out (hence the need for Planning permission) but how strict do we want (and need) the controls to be ?


From Roger N

Monday, 3 December 2012

Many thanks to Anthony Rae for drawing our attention to this matter.

The prospect of housing expansion in Heptonstall is concerning. It's not the first time, though. Back in the seventies the then Council had plans to turn Heptonstall into a major town, which involved effectively clearing the village centre of all the weaver's cottages and building on much of the available surrounding land. Thank goodness those plans never reached fruition.

Two parts of the 'core strategy' should give us hope. Firstly, the Council have said they will give priority to brownfield sites, the second priority being infill within existing settlements. The third priority would indeed mean extending the curtilage of those settlements. Given the large amount of brown field land available, surely all the 252 proposed houses - even more - could be accomodated within Hebden Bridge's existing boundaries (for example, the Mytholm works site, and the brownfield land between Hebden Bridge and Mytholmroyd)

Secondly, the Council's document states, referring to the 252 houses needed in Hebden Bridge, "No housing is allocated to the tier 5 settlements (Blackshawhead, Callis Bridge, Charlestown, Heptonstall, Slack, Midgley, Chiserley and Old Town) given their more limited role with new housing dependent on windfall proposals and possibly affordable housing on rural exception sites subject to Policy TPH 6."

But I fully admit that I've only read the documents superficially. I'm sure there must be a bit of 'small print' that justifies Anthony Rea's concerns.

From Dr Lindsay Smales

Tuesday, 4 December 2012

Having read the draft Core Strategy Local Plan I am somewhat puzzled by the designation 'Area Around Todmorden'. This begs the question as to why the beautiful rural landscape surrounding our town is somehow deemed less valuable than the 'Greenbelt' above Hebden Bridge or Mytholmroyd?

We need some joined up thinking here. It is not necessary to build houses on Greenfield sites around Todmorden when we have four large 'Brownfield' sites - Rose Street, Halifax Road, the Adamroyd Mill area and the land occupied by Omerod/Cinema buildings- all of which are in dire need of redevelopment. Flat land is scarce in our part of the world and here in Tod we have more than most.

Good Planning has rightly been described as 'the right kind of development, in the right place at the right time'. For instance, the existing Calderdale Unitary Development Plan (UDP) allocates the Halifax Road site, for which ASDA has just lost an Appeal on its application to develop a supermarket, as an employment site. Yet developers are not lining up to build crinkly tin sheds that employ three people to put things in boxes. The promise of 150 supermarket jobs was a total myth, by the way, as so many people in existing employment would have been put out of work should that particular scheme gone ahead.

These sites are all well suited for housing and could go a long way towards meeting the area's very necessary residential allocations. It is also possible to use the planning system and process to ensure that a good proportion of any private housing development would contain a significant element of affordable social housing.

St Vincent's Housing Association have recently developed two small Brownfield sites in Todmorden and done so by providing well designed flats and houses. This is a model that could easily be replicated up and down the Calder Valley and its towns.

We should call upon local politicians and officials to take note and serve us well by ensuring their 'Plans' promote the development of the considerable number of Brownfield sites we have available before signing up to the building of houses on our precious green and pleasant land.