THE people of Holme Wood have been “failed” by Bradford Council not pushing ahead with a plan to regenerate the area that was first drawn up over eight years ago.

The Holme Wood and Tong Neighbourhood Development Plan was an ambitious document that shaped the development of that area of Bradford - and included proposals to create a new neighbourhood centre with improved shops and facilities.

The plan - drawn up after meetings between Councillors, police, residents and organisations like Incommunities, was endorsed by the Council’s Executive in 2012.

But the plan never went through the subsequent stages required to make it an official document - a designation that was needed for the it to hold any legal weight in future developments in the area.

At a meeting of Bradford Council’s Regulatory and Appeals Committee yesterday, members raised serious concerns that the plan had not progressed in the past eight years, claiming it was a “total failure” of officers.

The issue had been raised due to a major planning application for the centre of Holme Wood.

Councillors reluctantly approve plans to replace Holme Wood social club with shops

In June, committee members approved plans to demolish Holme Wood Social Club and build a Heron Food and three smaller shops in its place.

Yesterday the unusual decision was made to bring the application back to the committee.

And after a debate on the issue, members made the decision to refuse the plans - overturning their previous approval.

Tong Councillor Michael Johnson had raised concerns that when making the decision in June, members had not taken the Neighbourhood Plan into account, and had called for the application to be discussed again.

A report to yesterday's committee pointed out that although this neighbourhood plan had gone to the Executive “it did not then go through the various stages to be formally adopted as a Supplementary Planning Document.

“It therefore remains that given this status the document can be given very limited weight.”

The first page of the Neighbourhood Plan Document - published in January 2012, says: “By 2020, Holme Wood and Tong will be a beautiful and welcoming neighbourhood, driven by energetic and engaged communities of highly skilled, healthy and motivated residents, who have built a diverse and prosperous culture and economy which encourages and recognises the contribution of everyone, for everyone.

“Holme Wood and Tong will be a great place to live and work that unlocks the potential in all people and all places and provides an enviable quality of life.”

The plan included a “New Heart” of Holme Wood - which would see investment on the Broadstone area to the north of the neighbourhood, with new and refurbished shops, including a food store.

It included tree planting an much improved public space.

Planning officers told the meeting that the Heron development would in fact support the plan, and its vision for a new food store in the neighbourhood centre.

But Councillor Johnson (Lab, Tong) claimed the plan was always for existing shops to be refurbished and expanded, rather than a new unit built. He said: “The planning application will have an adverse effect on the viability of the existing retail centre located at the Parade, commonly referred to by residents as the ‘bottom shops’ which are on the opposite side of Broadstone Way to the social club.  

"This application, unlike the Neighbourhood Development Plan, does not replace the existing Parade of shops but adds more shops and retail units to the existing provision within Holme Wood."

He added: "It doesn’t follow that the only option is to give the development plan very limited weight."

Chair of the Committee Councillor David Warburton (Lab, Wyke) said: “Clearly when the plan went before the Executive there was the intention for it to become something quite important for the area.

"Money was allocated from the Council to do work on this. Why has this document never gone through the correct process? Somewhere along the line officers failed to pick up on this.”

Planning officer Amin Ibrar said he was not sure of the process the document went through after 2012.

He said the committee had to decide on the application in front of them, rather than the history of the development plan and any of the schemes included in it.

Legal officer Bob Power said that when the neighbourhood plan was take to the Executive in 2012, it should have been made clear what stage the document was at.

He said there were a number of stages after the Executive meeting that the document needed to have gone through to be fully adopted, but didn't.

Councillor Alan Wainwright (Lab, Tong) said he attended many of the meetings where the plan was put together as part of the board of Incommunities.

He said other people involved included police, housing bosses and Holme Wood residents.

He added: “It seems a lot of people have wasted a lot of time on this.”

Cllr Warburton added: “My personal comment is that our officers have failed the people of Holme Wood by not getting this document to its correct position.

“It has been a total failure of officers over the years.

“If we refuse this, I would ask officers to look at the development plan and make sure it goes through the proper processes to be accepted as a policy document for the future.”

Councillor Geoff Reid (Lib Dem, Eccleshill) said: "It seems this application is legally sound, but it still doesn't feel right."

Councillor Russell Brown (Cons, Worth Valley) said it was a "confusing" situation, adding: "Refusing it would set a difficult precedent."

Cllr Warburton added: "I think it does too, but that is what we are here to do."

Four members voted to refuse the plan, one voted against refusal and one abstained.

The reason for refusal was the impact the new shops would have on the viability of existing shops in the area.

After the meeting Matt Edwards, a Green Party member who has previously campaigned to be a Councillor in Tong ward, said: "Serious questions now need to be asked about how we are in this situation in the first place and how no one noticed that it wasn’t formally adopted.

“If there is anywhere in Bradford that needs a neighbourhood plan it is Holme Wood. Bradford Council need to get their act together and draw up a new plan that is achievable, get it adopted – properly - then stick to it.   

“Anyone who has read it will realise pretty quickly that the current plan is not fit for purpose. So little has actually been achieved over the last eight years. Bradford Council might as well have got this printed and sold in Waterstones as a work of fantasy for all the good it has done up until now.”

After the meeting a Bradford Council spokesman said: "Whilst progress on the implementation of the Neighbourhood Development Plan has been affected by reductions in capital and revenue, its actions remain hugely important and the Council will prioritise them across our teams and key partners to make both physical and social infrastructure improvements within the area. “We will also continue to work with West Yorkshire Combined Authority on prioritising major roads projects for both Tong Street, which has recently been granted funding to progess to the next stage, and the South East Bradford Link Road to unlock regeneration, environmental and sustainable transport benefits for Holme Wood and with housing partners on developing homes.

“The Council is also committed to supporting important grass roots work in Holme Wood led by partners such as Friends of Holme Wood, Build a Girl and the Valley Project. “Significant investment in the TFD Centre at the heart of Holme Wood to establish it as an all-age prevention and early help hub will be recommended to the next meeting of Council’s Executive.

“A group of partners was brought together last year to look at revitalising joint work in the area and particularly to consider how to make progress on the social and economic outcomes needed. “The Bradford Institute for Health Research led Act Early in Holme Wood project came out of this and, despite some delays caused by the early stages of the Coronavirus pandemic, significant resources have been drawn into the project which, alongside funding from sources such as Well Bradford, mean that new ideas on work to improve the area and outcomes for residents can be generated.”