Large areas of green belt land in the district’s countryside could be saved from being blighted by development after a major planning re-think at Bradford Council.
The authority has cut its long-term house-building target by thousands after pressure from campaigners, including supporters of the Telegraph & Argus’ Save Our Green Spaces campaign.
In a change to plans made in 2011, the number of homes to be built in the Wharfedale area will almost halve, from 3,100 to 1,600, to protect the wildlife habitats of the South Pennine Moors. And under the new proposals, more housing would be built in Bradford city centre and its immediate suburbs, rather than rural areas.
But some councillors say the revisions to the plan do not go far enough, pointing out that large swathes of greenbelt are still set to be released for development.
Councillor Val Slater (Lab), executive member for housing, praised the T&A’s campaign to save the district’s countryside, saying: “We have listened.”
But she also warned that the loss of some greenbelt land in the years to come would be inevitable.
The Council is currently preparing its development blueprint, called the Local Plan, which will set out how much land should be earmarked for housing and jobs by 2030. Originally, it had said the district needed 45,500 new homes over that period, or 2,700 a year, based on a proportion of a region-wide target.
But during a public consultation, campaigners got in touch in their droves saying the target was too high, and the Council commissioned consultants GVA to look into the matter.
GVA’s report agreed the number should be lower, and now the Council has revised it. The new housing target is 42,100 homes, or 2,200 a year – a cut of 3,400 homes, or 7.5 per cent.
Coun Slater said 38,000 of the new homes in the overall figure would be needed to accommodate the district’s growing population, while the rest represented the backlog which had built up during the recession.
She said: “People were right that we didn’t actually need 45,500 – that was the good news. However, you will be saying, ‘Where has that extra figure come from? That is because we have to add on any houses we haven’t built in the last few years. Because of the economic conditions, we haven’t built many houses, so we have got arrears we have got to add on the top.”
Any homes which already have planning permission but are yet to be built – of which there are about 9,500 in the district – will count towards this overall development target.
The planning document, called the Core Strategy, sets out not just the housing target but the Council’s priorities for where development should take place and what it should be like.
It still needs to go before both the decision-making Executive and full Council, go through another public consultation and be approved by a Government inspector before it can be adopted.
Coun Slater said it had been crucial to make sure the housing target was accurate before the Core Strategy went for its inspection, as having it thrown out by the Government would be costly.
She said: “If you don’t get that figure right you will have problems when the planning inspector comes to examine it – as Kirklees found. They’ve had to withdraw their plan – they couldn’t produce evidence for the figure they had come up with.”
Specific sites will be earmarked for housing or business use at a later stage, and it is expected to take up to three years for the plan to come into effect.
The draft was welcomed by campaigners fighting to save green spaces across the district, including Dr Steve Ellams, of Menston Action Group.
His group was set up to fight housing on land at Bingley Road and Derry Hill in the village. Menston has been earmarked for 400 new homes by 2030 – half of the 900 originally planned.
He said: “If you’re going to build anything, it should be brown before green. That should be a slogan. I have to say I’m delighted in the respect that the Council has been listening to our protestations and they may have understood the area is not developable.”
Heaton community activist Elizabeth Hellmich, of the Safe Project, agreed it was a “small step” in the right direction – but said the Council should ensure brownfield sites are developed before opening up the green belt.
When the original plans were announced in 2011, the campaigner collected a petition of nearly 1,000 names urging the Council to “thoroughly examine” brownfield locations which are ripe for development before building on any more green-field sites.
She also handed a dossier mapping many of the then 13,720 empty homes and 268 derelict sites across the Bradford district to Coun Slater as part of the T&A’s campaign.
“It seems like they have finally realised what we have known for a long time. Not just a few campaigners, but everyone,” she said.
She praised plans to build more of the new housing in the city centre thank originally planned, saying: “You need to build out from the city centre and not out from the suburbs.”
Meanwhile, Coun Simon Cooke (Con, Bingley Rural) said he feared that if the Council released new areas of green belt land, developers would flock to those instead of brownfield sites.
Cullingworth, in his ward area, is one of only a few areas that will see a higher number of homes built that planned in 2011 - with 350 instead of 200.
However, Coun Cooke said he believed the reason for the increase was because of a soon-to-be-submitted proposal for a new 238-home development.
He said: “The site is previously developed land and not within the green belt.
“Another benefit is that it releases the pressure on Wilsden.”
Councillor Anne Hawkesworth (The Independents, Ilkley) said: “The plan is better than it was, but the reality is that we are still left with a plan that will see swathes and swathes of green belt that is still going to be built on, and we know how keen greedy developers are to build here.
“The habitat survey as I expected has forced a substantial reduction of housing along the valley.”
The properties would be built within sites in the urban area, the report says, as well as a “significant contribution” from changes to greenbelt land.
The areas have been designated as ‘local growth centres’ would also see the creation of new jobs.
Meanwhile, Cullingworth, Denholme and Haworth would get a total of 1,200 new homes, using sites from existing settlement boundaries and some greenbelt changes. New health care facilities would be built in Denholme, while new recreational facilities would be created in Cullingworth and Haworth. Harden, Oakworth, Oxenhope and Wilsden would get 600 new homes, again, within existing settlement boundaries, with some changes to the greenbelt.
Health care, open spaces and recreational facilities will be created in Harden, Oakworth and Oxenhope to address what the report describes as “current deficiencies”.
It adds land for employment will be allocated to support services in locations on a scale in keeping with the character and ecology of the area.
Bradford and Shipley There would be 3,500 new homes built in Bradford city centre by 2030, on new sites as well as through the redevelopment and reuse of existing buildings.
The report says new jobs would also be created within the financial, knowledge and creativity sectors.
There would be improvements to the area supporting City Park and other open spaces “providing a unique setting for shopping, tourism, culture and leisure experiences”.
A Central Business District would supply ‘grade A’ office space, with the report adding: “Regeneration of the city centre will be supported through effective management and enhancement of the historic environment.”
The Shipley and Canal Road corridor would get 200 more houses than previously planned, with 3,200 expected to be built. The report says they will be provided in a range of locations, in particular the “centre section”, with what is described as “sustainable buildings with innovative and contemporary architecture”
Bolton Woods wildlife area and a linear park and water features would link the town centre of Shipley to Bradford city centre.
Cycleways would be created and improvements would be made to Frizinghall Station and the road infrastructure, including along the Canal Road corridor.
The peripheral communities, such as Allerton, Bierley, Holme Wood, Ravenscliffe, Thorpe Edge, Buttershaw, Woodside and inner city areas including Manningham, Little Horton and Laisterdyke would see their own “regeneration initiatives”.
Wharfedale The creation of 800 homes in Ilkley would involve a “significant contribution” of land from greenbelt changes, the report says.
Developments would include the creation of new schools, as needed, and new recreational and open spaces.
The town would have the role as a ‘principal town’ in Wharfedale, with retail, tourism and leisure functions.
There would be 200 new homes in Addingham, with new community facilities being built, and 200 in Burley in Wharfedale. The number of new homes to be built in Menston would fall from 900 to 400, with the figure based on existing permissions and other opportunities to develop within the settlement boundaries.
Across the area, the number of homes proposed has almost halved, falling from 3,100 to 1,600.
Airedale There would be 4,500 new homes in Keighley, with new health provision, local shops and sports facilities.
They would be built on areas where there have been “significant” changes to the greenbelt, as well as within the existing urban area.
The centre of Keighley would see “comprehensive regeneration” through the creation of housing, starter units for small and medium sized businesses and a business park.
High quality mixed-use developments would be created in the town centre in areas including the former Keighley College site, Market Hall, Cavendish Court and Cavendish Retail Park. There would also be heritage-led enhancements on historic buildings, including Dalton Mills.
New traffic management schemes would be introduced in the town centre and improvements to Hard Ings Road would be completed.
In Bingley, there would be 1,400 new homes and new jobs would be created in the financial, professional and public services sector.
Retail and leisure schemes would be introduced at 5 Rise shopping centre, the former Bradford and Bingley headquarters and Lilycroft Mill.
Silsden would get 1.000 new homes, with the creation of Silsden Business Park. There would be 700 new homes in Steeton and Eastburn, with community facilities and “high quality” employment areas. Baildon would see the creation of 450 new homes, while Cottingley and East Morton would see “smaller scale housing”.