Politically Speaking in the Wakefield Express

Planning and development are big issues across the Wakefield District. I’ve discussed the issue at length with senior council officers as well as elected Councillors and local people. And my recent survey of 35,000 people across the area also asked people’s views on the issue.

While some people said they oppose all housebuilding, most agree we need more affordable homes in Wakefield and Leeds – and that councils should use brownfield sites for them. Most want to see existing communities respected, valuable Green Belt land protected and proper infrastructure provided so that our local communities are not harmed.

I agree. With our economy struggling, I’ve called for a £10 billion boost to housing investment to build more affordable homes and to get our builders and the construction industry back to work.

These houses have to be the right kinds of homes and built in the right places. But that’s not what is happening – And changes to national planning policy are at the heart of the problem.

Previously we had a strong brownfield-first policy which promoted the development of sites that had previously had buildings on them. But this has been ditched through recent changes in the Government’s national planning policy, while the weak state of the housing market and the regional economy means developers are less keen on building affordable homes.

The result is the wrong houses being built in the wrong places and there’s no money set aside to pay for the infrastructure we need. And that is putting growing pressure on greenfield and GreenBelt sites, even where viable brownfield sites are widely available. Local council officers tell me that many local developers already have existing brownfield sites with planning permission already granted and have not yet developed these sites. Yet they’re applying for more sites. That can’t be right.

I’ve written to Eric Pickles, the Secretary of State for these things, on a number of occasions to raise local concerns about the impact of national policy. It is vital the national government understands the impact national policy is having on areas on the outskirts of cities like Wakefield and Leeds. And while Green Belt land is threatened at the same time as our brownfield sites remain undeveloped I will continue to press Government to change course.

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Posted August 30th, 2013 by Ed's team