AT THE risk of this column starting to read like Planning Weekly, I can’t resist commenting on the news that the Government has reduced its house-building targets – meaning that Bradford Council is currently planning to build far more houses than we need.

Neither can I resist stating that I hate to say “I told you so” but, you guessed it, I told you so.

Regular readers of this column (and, indeed, the Telegraph & Argus over many years) will know that I’ve been banging on about this for a long time.

In fact, the T&A’s Save Our Green Spaces campaign – which set out to prevent intrusion into the greenbelt while promoting affordable home-building on brownfield sites – was launched precisely because of Bradford Council’s insistence that Government house-building targets had to be rigidly adhered to.

When it began in 2011, I wrote: “We accept there is not enough brownfield land to meet all the district’s needs and that some greener areas are likely to have to be developed eventually. But there is still no proof that the figure of 50,000 new homes over 20 years is credible. Where does it come from and does it really stand up? It is, after all, only crystal ball-gazing.”

Six years later, I was still harping on: “Bradford Council claims it has to build 42,100 new homes by 2030. Says who? What evidence is there that specific population estimates for the area bounded by the Metropolitan District are accurate?”

And: “What factors determine the formula that is used to make that calculation? Whose formula is it? And what if it’s wrong? Well I can tell you categorically it is wrong. Why? Because it contains an element based on immigration and is therefore based on historic data. But, as we all know, immigration patterns are going to change because of Brexit….”

From last October: “I strongly believe the Government and Bradford Council have got it wrong on the issue of housing need. I have long argued the calculations were wrong… So, like greenbelt campaigners across the district, I’m pleased the formula and methodology are at last under scrutiny.”

And so, and so on.

That last comment was prompted by a Government announcement that it was to review how housing targets were set. So it’s a little disingenuous of Cllr Alex Ross-Shaw, the Council’s executive member for Regeneration, Planning and Transport, to describe the revised targets as “not helpful when they change the rules when we’re in the middle of implementing the Local Plan”.

The council has known this was coming for at least 10 months and it was obvious the figure was going to go down, so why didn’t they start looking at where they could put a red pen through the existing proposals to prepare for the eventuality?

A report to today’s meeting of the Council Executive says the changes to Government policies could mean the target of having 2,476 houses a year built throughout the district is reduced to 1,663 a year.

That is a staggering drop with huge implications for the greenbelt.

At present, the council has already approved the release of sufficient greenbelt land for around 11,000 new homes by 2030.

Under the new figures, virtually all of that can be wiped out immediately, which should make the task of revising the draft Local Plan significantly easier.

And it should also help allay the fears raised by Cllr Adrian Naylor and others that between now and the sign-off in 2020 “you will get developers coming in and any application for housing will have to be judged by the existing, out-of-date core strategy”.

The council can use the Government as the excuse: “We’ve been told to reduce our targets so we’re going back to the original policy of protecting the greenbelt, with a presumption that intrusion will be kept to the bare minimum.”

The report to today’s Executive says the council must “ensure the right number of dwellings in the right places are being planned for”.

That’s all we’ve ever asked for….

HOUSING policy might be shaky but where council planners are getting it right is in the city centre where the artist’s impression of how a new market could look in Darley Street blew me away. The £21 million scheme to transform the former M&S building into a new food market with outdoor canopy between it and the Kirkgate Centre, creating an all-weather space, is excellent. And it has the added bonus of bringing affordable family homes – and, therefore, customers – into the city centre on the existing Oastler Centre site. Now that’s a win-win.

I WAS totally bemused by the controversy over the current £42 million estimated value of Bradford Council’s art collection and the fact only 10 per cent of it is on show at any one time.

The suggestion by Councillor John Pennington and others, that “this art wants putting on display or it wants selling and the money putting into council services” is bonkers. Providing sufficient facilities to put the other 90 per cent on show would bankrupt the council overnight and lead to permanently stale galleries, while selling it would breach covenants and place the council in endless litigation.

Council leader Judith Blake got it bang on the money when she commented about the situation in her city: “Leeds City Council has no intention whatsoever of selling off the city’s family silver.” End of argument.