Update December 10th 2017
In September 2017 the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) published proposals for consultation that would result in substantial changes in the housing targets for the various regions of the UK. If accepted such proposals would lead to a radical reduction in the target numbers for both Leeds and Bradford. Following public pressure Leeds are already looking to reduce their housing numbers considerably. In October we asked Bradford council if they intend to adopt the new method of calculation, indeed we asked for the question to be raised at their next Council meeting. They refused to do this and when we subsequently wrote to them for a formal response they said they will not and they will adhere to the published 42100 total (update August 2018; Good news, we understand that Bradford Council are now considering reducing the housing target). The document that ‘supports’ that number is here. However we have been unable to get an explanation from Bradford Council as to what underlying assumptions were made in arriving at those numbers. Evident in that document is a figure of 7687, which is the theoretical ‘unmet need of houses 2004-2013’. It is surely fair to question whether a theoretical backlog of nearly 8000 is valid to include in the current target figure given all the changes that have happened since 2004! If the DCLG’s calculation were to be adopted it reduces the total annual housing requirement for Bradford by 537, or 8055 over the prescribed 15 year plan. So there are strong arguments for saying that the total housing target in the plan could be reduced by up to 16,000. Over a great many years, the total number of houses built in the Bradford Green Belt has been negligible, however their current plan requires the building of a massive 11,000 houses on the Green Belt. Clearly there need be no Green Belt incursion whatsoever if the unnecessary numbers were subtracted from the target. The rules regarding Green Belt are clear in requiring ‘Exceptional Circumstances’ to be present before the release of Green Belt can be considered and that the pursuit of a housing ‘target’ does not in itself constitute exceptional circumstance (particularly where that target is highly questionable!). It also seems very odd that the plan which requires 11,000 houses (over 26% of the total target) to be built on the Green Belt has been approved by the Government Inspector and yet a ‘Green Belt review’ has not yet been done!
The Government are pushing for more transparency and community involvement in Planning and other local issues so why won’t Bradford Council explain why they continue to target excessive housing numbers? (see update comment above) The Council also said they are trying to minimize the use of Green Belt land; absolutely nothing that we have seen in the plan supports this claim, in fact there is much evidence to the contrary. The very fact that the plan moves from a position of zero to 11,000 houses on the Bradford Area Green Belt gives a clue!
The threat of a Link Road through the Tong Valley is our greatest fear; it was clear from the Core Strategy examination and report that such a road would start at the Drighlington by-pass roundabout on Westgate Hill and cut right through the heartland of the Tong Valley to a destination somewhere between Thornbury Interchange and Dawson’s Corner and lead to justification of further green belt reduction intended for both housing and industrial usage. (see the document link below) This apparently is to be funded by the West Yorkshire Plus Transport Fund but it has proved impossible to obtain any details about it. The entire ‘Holmewood Urban Extension’ (ie building on the Tong Valley) appears to depend on it – but no information has been forthcoming other than its potential existence. How can Bradford’s Development Plan be described as sound when such a situation exists - no route for a road is evident. Strangely, the allocated land in the document goes well beyond the 2100 houses originally destined for the Tong Valley Green Belt (and included in the 42100 total target) and by simple maths is now capable of accommodating 3650 houses at the same density and that is without the further development alluded to in the document below.
There is a general public expectation that Green Belt land should be used for housing only as a last resort and when all brownfield sites have been exhausted. The document below refers to ‘Phasing’ which in effect means commencing building on Green Belt well before brownfield sites have been used. You would think in a major plan like this, where the Green Belt issues are as extensive and sensitive as they are, Bradford would know what brownfield sites exist in order to make informed and rational decisions on where best to build houses, especially when their plan has been ‘approved’. And yet, despite there being a Government requirement for each Council to have a register of brownfield sites, Bradford does not yet have one. (Update - Bradford has since prepared one)
An unbiased observer would be forgiven for feeling that the proposed Tong Valley development, using justifications of improving the lot of the existing Holmewood residents and providing affordable housing, is disingenuous and has more to do with fulfilling the aspirations of the major developers. The document lodged with Bradford Council Plan and therefore in the public domain makes interesting reading