Anthony Rae for FOE 19th November 2015: For years – as Calderdale’s Local Plan has progressed through its extended development – Calderdale FOE has been warning about the ‘threat to our Greenbelt’. Now, with the publication of a consultation draft which contains details of the proposed housing (and also employment) sites that might be allocated in the final Plan, the actual and huge scale of that threat has at last been revealed. The consultation period lasts until Friday 18th December and people can attend a series of drop-in events (dates here) to inspect maps of their area with the proposed sites marked on them, and talk to Council officers.

But it’s actually better to do this via the online map. If you switch it to ‘aerial’ view (top right button) you can see all the fields and countryside that would be swallowed up by new estates. The proposed housing sites are marked in orange, employment sites purple, mixed-use sites pink; and then there are two other designations. ‘Red cross hatching’ identifies sites that have been excluded or ‘filtered’ at this stage by the council, but in fact it’s still possible to suggest that they be re-included; and ‘blue cross hatching’ identifies urban extensions: much larger sites which might take between 1,000-4,000 new houses. If you ‘left click’ on any site, details about it can be read, for example if it’s in Greenbelt.

The maps have to be read in conjunction with a draft Local Plan text. The number of new houses that Calderdale is being required to provide over the next 17 years to 2032 is enormous: around 17,500 of which some 12,000 need new sites to be specifically allocated. The difference is made up by 2730 of already granted planning permissions and 2800 on windfall sites below the allocated sites size threshold. (You’ll find the actual numbers in tables 2.1 page 7pdf and 8.1 page 220pdf).

And where are these new sites? On previously developed land (brownfield), sustainable located in town centres and existing communities now needing to be regenerated? Or on the greenfield and Greenbelt (protected) sites which make up our high quality and valued environment? Paragraph 4.3 provides the answer, although it requires a little decoding:

“Of the land currently identified with potential for housing, employment and mixed use 14% is previously developed land (brownfield) [FOE: this means that 86% will be on greenfield sites] whilst 65% lies within the current Green Belt [FOE: so another 21% will be on greenfield sites outside Greenbelt]. These figures do not include the suggested urban extensions [FOE: very large housing sites] since at this stage of the plan making process some of the housing, employment and mixed use allocations lie within them rather than forming separate allocations.”

Just to be clear: all these proposed sites are merely options, because they would collectively provide for many more than 12,000 new houses. So it’s a matter of choice – where should these new houses and on what type of site: in existing towns or out in the country?; on brownfield or greenfield/Greenbelt land? – and it’s now up to the people of Calderdale to decide. Many of the sites have been proposed by developers to whom greenfield/Greenbelt sites are extremely attractive. They offer the most profit and the developers are determined to get their hands on them.

Here’s the statement Friends of the Earth has given to the Halifax Courier:

“This plan will transform Calderdale as we know it, with sites for some 12,000 new dwellings over the next 15 years mostly cutting deep into our cherished Greenbelt. The Council is being required to plan for such a scale of development but will these houses be in the right place, on brownfield sites in town centres and estates needing regeneration; or the wrong one: cherry-picked greenfield sites generating more road traffic to choke already crowded roads? Will they be space-wasting sprawl, or higher density so as to minimise land take? Zero carbon, or leaking heat and emissions for decades to come? The developers want to make most money from all these wrong choices. We need to campaign for the right ones.”

Those words about ‘Zero carbon, or leaking heat and emissions for decades to come?’ represent the final irony. At a time when the government is pushing for millions of new houses to be built – with CO2 emissions associated with residential buildings amounting to around one quarter of the UK total; and where the energy efficiency and renewable energy standards embedded at the time of construction will determine their carbon performance throughout their long life, unless there’s an expensive retrofit – what could be the rationale for the deliberate abolition in July 2015 of the domestic zero carbon standard, which had been planned towards since 2006?

So this is not just a ‘double whammy’, it’s a triple! Loss of green space and biodiversity + increased road traffic to remoter sites and more vehicle CO2/air pollution + more residential carbon emissions. All locked in during the decades when carbon reduction has to be the imperative.

If we want to avoid this unsustainable future, over the next months we need to be engaging with the Local Plan process and urging brownfield first! ~ town centre first! ~ higher densities! ~ reduced road traffic! ~ more public and active transport! ~ zero carbon energy standards! And just to be clear: this is not saying new and affordable homes should not be provided, it’s about where and how they are built acheter vrai viagra.

If you want to join in the first thing to do is to object to the proposed greenfield and Greenbelt housing sites you don’t think are right, and support the brownfield sites that are. The online consultation form is here and you first have to register here.

Friends of the Earth and Campaign for Protection of Rural England (CPRE) will be campaigning hard to make this happen.  For more information  contact