Council plans depend on a new authority

A PLAN to bring back West Yorkshire County Council in another form is essential to ensure controversial developments can go ahead, a councillor claimed this week.

The proposal is part of a scheme to create thousands of new jobs in the county.

Now the organisation behind the scheme has won a slice of a £1bn government grant.

On Tuesday, councillors discussed the Leeds City Region ‘city deal’ – a plan by eight Yorkshire councils to create jobs and growth across the region.

The leaders of the eight councils – including Kirklees leader Mehboob Khan – are members of the Leeds City Region Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) which is behind the city deal.

They hope their plan will speed up economic output, cut carbon emissions and create 60,000 new jobs by 2016.

On Friday it was announced that the LEP would benefit from the latest round of government’s Regional Growth Fund.

That will see £1bn divided between 130 different organisations. It has not yet been decided how much the LEP will get.

On Tuesday, Kirklees Council’s cabinet discussed a report on the LEP’s city deal.

The report said a key part of the deal would the setting up of a West Yorkshire Transport Fund to create better transport links across the region.

That, in turn, depends on a new ‘combined authority’ being set up to make strategic decisions for the whole region.

Coun Peter McBride, cabinet member for housing and investment, said: “If every district is deciding its strategic priorities, the strategy goes out the window. What we are recreating in effect is the West Yorkshire County Council in another form, which the government abolished in 1986 but has come to realise that you need a body of that size.”

He added that a joint authority was necessary to ensure that controversial developments in Chidswell and Cooper Bridge can go ahead under the Local Development Framework.

He said: “There has been a wonderful coming together of the districts in trying to pull LDFs together, to pull transport schemes together, to look at West Yorkshire as one.

“If we look at our own specific district plans with regard to Cooper Bridge, Chidswell – all of these things are the key priorities in Kirklees and not one of these things can happen... unless we have a joint authority.”

At Chidswell in Dewsbury, the council wants to build 500 homes and a 35 hectare business development.

At Cooper Bridge, on the Mirfield and Spen Valley border, a 42 hectare business development is planned.

Both proposals have been criticised by campaigners wanting to preserve green belt land.

The city deal was due to be discussed again by all councillors at a meeting yesterday.

A formal decision to approve the proposals will then be taken by the cabinet at its next meeting on October 24.