‘Fundamental flaw’ in council planning, claim

Members of the Lady Heton Action Group pictured by the meadow that is earmarked for development
Members of the Lady Heton Action Group pictured by the meadow that is earmarked for development

A campaign group say they have uncovered a fundamental flaw in the Kirklees’ planning process which has implications for all of Mirfield and beyond.

As the town becomes snowed under with requests to build on its green spaces, the Lady Heton Action Group (LHAG) has said Kirklees Council is giving developers an easy ride by ignoring its own planning policies.

Action group member Peter Morgan said a “fag packet” internal guidance document written by a Kirklees employee was being used to overrule the Unitary Development Policy (UDP) by allowing developers to build closer to existing homes.

The action group formed to fight a proposal by Ben Bailey Homes to build 36 houses behind Lady Heton Drive. The application is currently on hold for a great crested newt survey taking place from March to May, Mr Morgan said.

Adopted UDP policies are still used by Kirklees after they withdrew their Local Development Framework last year.

Mr Morgan, of Lady Heton Drive, said the group had gone over Kirklees’ planning process with a “fine tooth comb” to find the discrepancy.

Part of the UDP says new homes must be built at least 21m from a “habitable room” of an existing house, such as conservatories.

However, an internal Kirklees document says this can be ignored and the measurements can be taken from the original wall. And Kirklees has told Mr Morgan that the adopted UPD policies cannot be superseded by its own guidance documents.

The Kirklees amendment was put on its website in 2006, in consultation with the Local Government Ombudsman (LGO), after a challenge from a resident concerning a planning application in Batley.

Mr Morgan said: “This is a seven-year-old guidance document, written by a Kirklees employee, which should now be chucked in the bin.

“It is not an authorised document. There is nothing ambiguous in the UDP about the distances between new and existing properties. It cannot be misconstrued.”

Ignoring the 21 metre rule would encroach on the living space of new and existing residents, as well as allowing developers to cram in more homes on potential sites, Mr Morgan said.

The LHAG is calling on Kirklees to rescind the guidance document and stick with the UDP policy until Kirklees comes up with a new planning framework or an authorised committee amends it. Mirfield MP Simon Reevell has backed their call.

Kirklees Council did not want to comment.