Kirklees Local Plan recommended for a full update as cabinet admits 'we got it wrong'

Kirklees Council’s Local Plan has been recommended for a full update, as cabinet admits the previous plan “got it wrong” on some occasions.
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The plan came into force in February 2019 and sets out how much development the council wants to achieve and where it should take place. It also details policies that are used alongside national planning guidance to help determine the outcome of planning applications.

With it being five years since the plan was adopted, a formal review has been carried out to determine if it is still fit for purpose, as is required by the government.

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The review highlighted a number of issues the local authority faces, including not having a five-year supply of housing, failing to meet its housing delivery targets and difficulties in achieving sufficient jobs.

The council was supposed to deliver 1,700 homes each year, but even in the best years it was falling short by 700The council was supposed to deliver 1,700 homes each year, but even in the best years it was falling short by 700
The council was supposed to deliver 1,700 homes each year, but even in the best years it was falling short by 700

The council says that this review has been particularly crucial as the Local Plan was adopted prior to the announcement of the Climate Emergency, and before the Covid-19 pandemic and its ensuing impacts on the local and national economy.

The findings have prompted Kirklees Council’s cabinet to recommend a full update of the Local Plan and a final decision on this will be taken at the next full council meeting in November.

The process of updating the Local Plan would involve consultation with the public, alongside detailed consideration of the many impacting factors highlighted during the review, like climate change, environmental strategy, transport strategy, housing growth and the economy.

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At the cabinet meeting on October 17, issues around the plan were discussed, with it being highlighted that the plan was based on outdated predictions for the population.

Lib Dem group leader, Coun John Lawson, also recalled instances where developers had failed to develop sites to their “full potential” when it came to the number of properties being delivered. He asked how this would be addressed in the future.

Coun Graham Turner, cabinet member for regeneration and finance, said that some of the sites in the last plan had been “over-optimistic” with the council expecting too many houses.

He continued: “We didn’t get it right, I’m accepting that.

"We were over-optimistic on some sites but hopefully, as we’ve learnt lessons and we go to do the next Local Plan, we’ll take those lessons on board and the figures for housing per site we deliver will hopefully be more accurate and we’ll deliver those much-needed houses in the future.”

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The “over-optimistic” figures were also said to be responsible for the council’s dwindling housing land supply, with this now below the five-year requirement.

Coun Turner told the meeting that the council was supposed to deliver 1,700 homes each year, but even in the best years, it was falling short by 700 homes.

He said the council was aware of this and had anticipated the potential outcome, but that the figure was a problem as it is developers, not the council, who are responsible for delivering houses.

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A report to the council’s growth and regeneration scrutiny panel last month revealed that a full review and update of the plan could cost up to £2m.

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However, according to Edward Highfield, service director for skills and regeneration, this will not put the council under further financial strain as the funds will come from the Leeds City Region business rates pool – a dividend shared by Kirklees and other West Yorkshire councils.

Following Tuesday’s meeting, Coun Turner said: “When we first launched the Kirklees Local Plan back in 2019, we could never have imagined what the next five years would have in store.

“While this review was always going to take place, its importance right now can’t be overstated.

"We need to make sure that the strategy we’re working to takes into account the colossal changes which have taken place since the Local Plan was adopted, so that we can deliver our ambitions for Kirklees.

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“I know we have some huge challenges on our hands, but there is also huge potential across our district.

"The Local Plan is about how we work within our current constraints to deliver that potential – strengthening our local economy, creating much-needed housing, and bringing huge benefits for everyone who lives and works in Kirklees.

"The impacts of this work will be felt for not just years but decades to come.”