Anthony Rae for FOE 4th August 2017: Every council has to prepare a ‘Local Plan’ – a critical document which will determine what happens where into the future, what gets built and what gets protected – and Calderdale has today (4th August) started to consult on what its Local Plan should require, all the way to 2032. There are now 8 weeks (until 29th September) for people and communities to have their say; the council then reviews those comments, possibly revises aspects of the plan, before it heads towards a public inquiry before an independent inspector in the second half of 2018.

You can read their draft local plan (and download a copy) here; and submit your comments, paragraph by paragraph, at the same place. There’s a map displaying the plan’s various proposals, and a lot of additional information and reports in the Evidence Base for the Plan.

What are the main issues within the Local Plan that will affect the future sustainability of Calderdale?

How many new houses and where should they be built? The council is required by government to include in the plan sites for no fewer than 13,300 new houses*. Overwhelmingly, these are in the east of Calderdale (around Halifax, Brighouse, Elland and Northowram & Shelf) – because the council is judging that the topography and infrastructure in the Upper Calder Valley, simply does not permit large-scale housing growth there – and on land proposed to be taken from existing Greenbelt (77% of the new housing sites). Friends of the Earth believes that a more sustainable approach would be for the Local Plan to focus on using the regeneration opportunity of new housing to invest in more sustainable town centre locations, including central Halifax, and that the Plan’s current focus on building on Greenbelt land is a major lost opportunity as well as being environmentally destructive.
[*Go to here and scroll down to paragraph 6.58 and table 6.14. The table identifies the number of new houses allocated in each area of Calderdale. This totals 15,562 but as table 6.2 explains this higher number is ‘15% surplus to requirements’. The actual housing requirement is 13,286.]

What level of carbon reduction does it plan for, to contribute to tackling climate change? At present Calderdale is on course to achieve the 40% carbon reduction target set in 2012 – which is good news – and the local plan proposes to extend that target to the 2032 date. Friends of the Earth welcomes the plan’s commitment to tackling climate change, which is however undermined by decisions imposed by central government to restrict higher local standards for the energy efficiency of all these new houses, and to hamper projects for more renewable energy.

How will people get about, in a district where there’s already lots of road congestion and where new transport infrastructure is difficult to provide? There’s a puzzle at the centre of the Local Plan: if the population and number of new houses is set to increase, but at the same time carbon emissions must reduce, how can road traffic also continue to increase when it’s already the largest single source of carbon emissions in the UK (26%), and also produces unlawful air-pollution in many locations around Calderdale? If the local road network, built for former times, is already congested how is it possible for even more road traffic to be accommodated as a result of new housing development in unsustainable locations? Friends of the Earth believes it’s a mistake that the draft Local Plan contains no chapter on transport to explain how these contradictions and problems will be resolved.

So the Local Plan, as currently drafted, clearly presents major challenges to the sustainability of our district. Friends of the Earth will be submitting its own comments on all these issues, and is assisting local communities around Calderdale to formulate their own responses. If you’d like to have a conversation about the Local Plan just contact