SURPRISE ANNOUNCEMENT

SIGNIFICANT REDUCTION IN HOUSING TARGET NUMBERS IN WHARFEDALE!

Bradford Council has revealed that fewer new houses are to be built in Wharfedale than were proposed in the original LDF.  Overall, the number of houses assessed to be needed in Bradford District between now and 2030 has been reduced from 45,500 to 42,100, and the total has been reallocated as between the areas which make up Bradford District.  The change is beneficial for Wharfedale, but will not be seen as good news for other areas.  The housing target for Wharfedale (one of WARD’s focus areas) has been reduced from 4,500 to 2,500.

This is welcome news, but still doesn’t answer the questions which WARD has been raising, nor will it help the overstretched infrastructure of Wharfedale’s communities along the busy A65.

Bradford’s Local Development Plan contains a number of welcome changes to the targets for housing previously indicated, such as:

  • Menston has been ‘stepped-back’ from being designated a “Local Growth Centre” to a “Local Service Centre”.  The number of houses which Menston is now indicated to accommodate by 2030 has been reduced from 900 to 400, in recognition of the fact that the village does not have the infrastructure to support such a large increase in population or traffic.
  • Burley in Wharfedale, also ‘relegated’ to a “Local Service Centre”, will see its target reduced from 500 to 200 new homes over the Plan period
  • Addingham, reduced from 400 to 200 new homes
  • Ilkley, Wharfedale’s “Principal Town”, reduced from 1,300 to 800 new homes.

So, compared with the original target of 3,100 new homes, Wharfedale’s new target in the revised Local Plan is 1,600, or an average of 200 homes per year over the next 16 years.  The BIG BENEFIT is the reduction in Green Belt and greenfield land to be “deleted” – a good word, because that’s exactly what happens to our green spaces when they build on them!  Once built on, it’s gone forever and lost to future generations.

WARD, and local groups such as Menston Action Group, Addingham Civic Society and others have been lobbying for several years to make Bradford Council aware of the need to recognise the uniqueness of Wharfedale’s environment and the value of green spaces for recreation, wildlife habitats, tourism and the intrinsic beauty of our fields and moors.  It seems that an unlikely ally has emerged, in the form of the European Habitats Regulations and the “European Strategic Environmental Assessment” requirements.  These draw the attention of the Council to Wharfedale’s location within the South Pennines National Park and the proximity of its settlements to the Rombalds Moor Special Protection Area.  Did Bradford Council not know about these matters before???

What is STILL not at all clear is how the supposed “housing need” has been assessed, and how accurate it is.  Bradford Council says “the Council commissioned consultants GVA to carry out a study to establish the district’s objectively assessed need for housing. GVA have proven experience in this field and have undertaken similar studies for a number of other Local Authorities including Leeds and Calderdale.” Indeed, GVA have undertaken such assessments all over the UK.  The company describes itself as “GVA – leading UK property consultants and commercial property management experts”.  They’ve no interest whatever then in encouraging the construction of more homes than might actually be needed?

Just have a look at GVA’s website at http://www.gva.co.uk/planning/ to see how their business has fingers in every planning ‘pie’ including “undertaking planning appraisals, negotiating and obtaining planning permission and advising on all aspects of planning policy, design requirements, mix of uses and planning conditions. We also provide expert witness advice.”  So, GVA provide the forecasts of “housing need”, they advise the Council where and in what sequence to undertake construction, negotiate the planning permission and conditions, and then their sales arm negotiates with the developers.  Do I smell an opportunity for financial advantage at every single stage of the process of robbing us of our heritage landscapes, or am I just becoming cynical after all the manipulation and double-speak in this Local Plan and its predecessors?

How come Bradford is said to need 42,100 new houses when its population increase has been 51,000 or 11% over the last 10 years (i.e. 1.1% per annum) and Bristol with a 10% increase in population over the same period (1% per annum) needs only 26,400?  Why does Leeds ‘need’ over 72,000 new houses when its population has increased by only 5% (39,000) over the last 10 years, yet Leicester’s population has increased by 17% (47,000) but it ‘needs’ only 21,500 new houses?  Don’t people live together in families in Leeds and Bradford?  Why are all these new houses ‘needed’ when whole districts of both Bradford and Leeds have vacant former industrial sites and massive numbers of houses for which planning permission has been given but not a brick laid?  When will Bradford start to clear the areas of near-derelict housing from its industrial past and build new eco-friendly (well insulated, easy-maintenance, well-designed) housing close to workplaces and shopping, so people don’t have to commute, clogging up the roads and issuing fumes and we can keep city-centre schools alive?  Answer: not whilst GVA keep recommending the Council pushes its population out of the city to the suburbs, leaving an economic wasteland in the centre.

Let’s take some credit for having brought a lot of these matters to Bradford Council’s attention, but still continue the fight to defend Wharfedale and its communities against unnecessary, inappropriate and excessive development plans.  When will the Council start to take notice of what sort and scale of development the residents of this area feel to be necessary?  That would require CONSULTATION, which we haven’t had yet!