Inside the Council with Coun Scott Benton

Residents have objected to many of the planned sites
Residents have objected to many of the planned sites

The council’s plans to build 12,600 new homes across Calderdale will be voted upon by Councillors later this month when the Local Development Plan finally comes before council.

The Labour-run council have been preparing the plan for over seven years (at a cost in excess of £10 million) and yet Calderdale is one of the last Councils in the entire country (out of over 400 local authorities) to publish its plan – so much so that the Council has been repeatedly criticised by the Government for its catastrophic handling of this issue.

Following the publication of the draft plan last summer, the Council received over 8000 comments and objections in relation to aspects of the plan. Many residents and planning groups expressed concern that the plans were unsound and unfit for purpose. However, despite the thousands of objections, the final plan looks remarkably similar to the draft plan released last summer with many of the sites that local residents objected to (not only here in the Upper Valley, but throughout Calderdale) still in the plan.

Nearly 95 per cent of all of the planned housing development will take place outside of the Upper Calder Valley – as such, the availability of new housing (and particularly new social and affordable housing for our young people) in this area will not keep up with the growing demand which will inevitably mean that prices will continue to rise preventing many people from getting on the housing ladder.

In addition to the lack of new housing in Todmorden, Hebden Bridge, Mytholmroyd, and the surrounding villages, there is also a lack of sites within the plan to support new industry, regeneration, and the creation of jobs for local people.

This plan presented a fantastic opportunity to consider a holistic approach to regenerate parts of the Upper Valley (Todmorden Town centre for example) but this opportunity has been missed yet again.

The Labour-run Council state that their main objective is to ‘reduce inequalities’ in the Borough, and yet the focus of their plan is to build two ‘garden suburbs’, and a business park with hundreds of job opportunities, in parts of Brighouse which rank in the wealthiest 15 per cent of the entire country.

This plan was a great opportunity for the Council to demonstrate that it is serious about reducing income inequality, regenerating deprived parts of the Borough, and achieving a sustainable future for the communities of the Upper Valley. Instead of coming up with an innovative plan which addresses these challenges, Labour have chosen to build thousands of expensive four bedroom houses for commuters next to the M62, in one of the wealthiest parts of Calderdale. In doing so, they have failed some of the poorest communities in Calderdale and have missed a glorious chance to regenerate parts of the Upper Calder Valley with a community-led approach.

Furthermore, in the Council’s rush to focus new economic activity elsewhere, their plan miserably fails to address the infrastructure requirements of the Upper Valley. We are know how chronic congestion is at the moment on the A646 (Burnley Road), even before the current flood works began. The Council’s plans do not outline any significant improvements to Burnley Road, or indeed, the highway network of the Upper Valley.

Their plan makes no provision for investment in public transport (over and above what the Government will deliver through the new rail franchise), nor contains any plans for schools or services in this area.

The impact of an additional 12,600 houses in Calderdale will create pressure upon the road network and public transport systems throughout the borough – not just in those areas which are taking most of the development. Similarly, the lack of provision for new schools, health facilities, and services, will impact upon people in all parts of Calderdale.

By ignoring the infrastructure requirements of the Upper Calder Valley, the Labour-run Council have miserably failed this area – just as they have failed other parts of Calderdale in producing a plan this is deeply unsound and not fit for purpose.