Sunday, 25 September 2011

Some good news, some secrecy and a worry about planning in Bradford


On Friday, the Shipley Planning Panel refused an application to build over 400 new houses on land at Sty Lane in Micklethwaite near Bingley. Land next to the Leeds Liverpool Canal and close to the great pair of Bingley locks – five-rise and three-rise.

The audience cheered and stamped their feet as councillors voted six to one against proposals by developers Redrow and Bellway to build on the site at Sty Lane, Micklethwaite.

Councillors said they felt access to the site, which was principally via a swing bridge over the Leeds-Liverpool Canal, was not adequate.

There will be an appeal – indeed the date is already set – so those objecting to the development might yet have their hopes dashed.

My purpose in highlighting this decision isn’t simply to discuss the particular development but to make a wider observation about Bradford’s Local Development Framework (LDF) Core Strategy. See, you’ve already got drooping eyelids and a fuzzy head at the planning jargon. Like most people, this strategy will be informed more by professional lobbyists – the developers, the “environment” campaigns and the heritage advocates – than by local people considering what development is needed and how to go about providing that development.

The LDF Core Strategy won’t point directly at the precise locations for development but will decide how much housing, employment and infrastructure is needed and how land allocation can be used to make that provision. And, right now, it is being driven by hidden evidence – documents that Bradford Council has not published:

·         The Strategic Housing Land Availability Assessment (SHLAA) – this assesses the possible sites across the district and has been conducted by a panel including representatives of the housebuilders, the social housing sector and the council. No elected members are involved in this process and other than a report on process and methodology to scrutiny, there will be no member process.

·         The Strategic Housing Market Assessment (SHMA) – this analyses the housing market in Bradford in depth advising on the types of housing needed in different areas and the amount and pattern of need for affordable housing – housing provided for sale and rent at below market prices. It was commissioned from consultants in 2009 and completed a year later. The council refuses to publish this document ahead of publishing the LDF Core Strategy

When the LDF Core strategy is published, these two studies will be presented as irrefutable evidence supporting the Council’s strategy. There will be no scope for challenging these documents – we will be expected to work with them as the basis of determining the core strategy. And I can tell you what the key proposal in that strategy – based on this evidence they won’t let us see – will be.

In order to meet the need for housing – 50,000 new houses over 15 years – we will be told that we have to release land from the ‘green belt’. Land like the site at Sty Lane where permission has just been refused. There will be no scope for creativity in meeting this requirement, we will not be allowed to question the number – all we will, as councillors, be asked to do is agree to taking large tracts of land from Bradford’s ‘green belt’.

And before you all get excited about the current proposals for a new National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) and begin laying into the government remember that what I have just described – a distant, bureaucratic, inflexible, predict-and-provide method – is the system introduced by the last Labour government.

Over the coming weeks, I will try to set out how an alternative approach might work – how we can negotiate development with local communities rather than simply point at land saying ‘build there’. How we can incorporate the changed pattern of employment and how we can create a plan that is ‘developer-friendly’ without ruining the amenity – the fantastic South Pennines amenity – that local people cherish.


1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Making individual plots much more available will also help build proper communities.

Rather than taking a large section of land, and selling it to a single developer, slice it up into lot's of single plots.

People fight against large builds, because they know there is a 50% chance that the lego houses that will be built may turn into a faceless semi-slum.