An east-west split has been identified by those scrutinising Calderdale's draft local plan.

During a hearing held by Inspector Katie Child at Shelf Village Hall, comments have been made about the geographical split within the borough when it comes to spatial strategy, infrastructure, economy and commuting.

One controversial aspect of the plan is the proposal for two garden suburbs at Thornhills and Woodhouse, both near Brighouse, which would encompass around 3,000 new homes.

The inquiry has heard of Calderdale’s topography, with western areas, including the upper Calder Valley, being steep-sided valleys with flooding issues, while eastern areas including Brighouse flatten out.

Thornhills resident Amanda Tattersall told the hearing: “Ninety one per cent of development is in the east, nine per cent is in the west.”

Calderdale Council’s planning lead Richard Seaman said in economic aspects the focus was weighted to the east as Calderdale was part of the Leeds City Region, with commuting mainly in the eastern direction.

The Campaign for the Protection of Rural England’s Robert Bamforth said: “The way you treat the western part is totally different to the way you do to the eastern part.”

Jason Carlton, of Clifton Village Neighbourhood Forum, said concentrating homes in eastern Calderdale deprived areas that might be economically struggling in the west of new homes and investment. Coun Howard Blagbrough (Con, Brighouse) said Calderdale aimed to become the best borough in the north, but had failed to produce air quality improvement measures and to consider other infrastructure, including health partners, to ensure things like GP surgeries could be provided in local areas. “Without putting a plan in place to improve air quality this is a negative impact on the quality of life of those residing in the area,” he said. Coun Sophie Whittaker (Con, Rastrick) believed placing so much housing close to the M62 would exacerbate issues like air quality. Mr Seamen said: “There are various references in the narrative vision – reducing air quality issues and congestion, references to primary and secondary school places and the health system, also work and quality of life. “As a general point, health and well-being are at the core of the plan.” Brian Crossley, of Shelf and Northowram Local Plan Forum, said his group’s vision was to protect things in their area like open fields, woodland and grassland. But, he said: “The council’s vision would destroy the environment, replacing them with weak, unsustainable mitigation measures.” However, Chris Darley, for Persimmon Homes, said that he took the exact opposite view about Northowram and Shelf, especially at Shelf which had been identified because the sites were most suitable for development – it did not flood, for example, and had just six per cent of the overall allocation. Mr Crossley also said he believed there were lots of small sites filtered out of the plan which could have reduced take of the green belt. But Mr Seaman said often the problem in the past for Calderdale in terms of infrastructure had been too many small developments. “It has become increasingly obvious that if we are to plan effectively for infrastructure that is relevant in planning in scale, it is reliant on the Garden Suburbs approach that allows infrastructure to be incorporated as part of a master plan,” he said. Mr Seaman said including these might have affected the weight of “windfall” parcels of land that might become available for the council to use. From another perspective, Andrew Rose of Spawforth Associates, representing Keyland Developments Ltd, said having enough land available was an issue. “To achieve housing aspirations you would argue you need more housing sites to deliver that level of growth,” he said, Alan Goodrum, of Halifax Civic Trust, said “futureproofing” was an important part of the Local Plan and he hoped to see improved quality of design respecting the character of the area included. For the council, Phil Ratcliffe said he believed that aspiration had already been captured in the plan’s vision. The Local Plan, sent to Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government James Brokenshire in January, requires the council to identify sites for around 9,500 new homes in the borough which should be developed by 2032 – previously described as the 12,600 requirement Government has asked for less sites which have already been given planning permission but have not yet been developed. After the first phase of hearings, the inspector will write to the council with her findings and a timetable will then be drawn up for the second phase.