Barwell intervenes over proposed Bradford green belt releases

Planning minister Gavin Barwell has issued a holding direction barring a Yorkshire council from progressing its new core strategy development plan document following a request from the local Conservative MP who raised concerns about the document, including its proposed release of green belt land.

Bradford: minister steps in over core strategy (pic: Tim Green via Flickr)
Bradford: minister steps in over core strategy (pic: Tim Green via Flickr)

In September, an inspector backed Bradford Metropolitan District Council's proposals to release land from the green belt to provide thousands of new homes.

The local plan proposes to make provision to allocate land for at least 42,100 homes between 2013 and 2030, with an annual requirement of 2,200 homes.

In his report, the inspector said that evidence in the council’s strategic housing land availability assessment (SHLAA) "confirms that insufficient land can be identified outside of the green belt to fully meet identified housing needs; some 11,000 dwellings are likely to have to be accommodated on green belt land, given the availability and constraints on non-green belt land".

But a letter sent by the minister to the council earlier this week said he had received a request from Philip Davies MP requesting the Barwell "intervene" over the plan.

"The request raised a number of issues including the proposed release of green belt, particularly at Wharfedale, development of green belt before brownfield land is exhausted, the efforts made under the duty to cooperate to meet Bradford’s housing need and the appropriate location for development to alleviate housing need and contribute to the regeneration of Bradford city centre", the letter said.

The intervention allows the minister time to consider the issues raised before determining whether to formally intervene under Section 21 of the 2004 Act Planning and Compulsory Purchase Act.

Councillor Susan Hinchcliffe, Bradford Council leader, said: "This is frankly outrageous behaviour by the MP for Shipley. By delaying the approved local plan, he has exposed his constituents and the rest of the district to the very real risk of unsuitable developments that would be sorely regretted for years to come. 

"The government instructs all councils to draw up a local plan and it encourages its planning inspectors to be pragmatic in their assessment of those plans, in view of the huge amount of work and consultation that goes into them.  

"We played by the rules and our plan won the approval of the inspector. Yet now we have this one MP with his own agenda who has created a vacuum of uncertainty and a potential development free-for-all. We will do everything we can to get the approved plan back on track for the benefit of the Bradford District."

In a statement on his website, Davies said: "I believe the work of the council and that of the inspector to be fundamentally flawed, particularly in relation to the green belt. The plan includes building houses on a large amount of land designated as green belt land – most notably in the Wharfedale ward of my constituency.

"The government clearly states that green belt land should only be used in exceptional circumstances and surely the building of so many houses on green belt land in a village should need particularly exceptional circumstances which I do not believe have been met."

Barwell's intervention comes just days after communities secretary Sajid Javid said that local and national politicians "must be prepared to make difficult calls, even if they’re unpopular" with regards to housebuilding. "Everyone agrees we need to build more homes. But too many of us object to them being built next to us. We’ve got to change that attitude", he said. 


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