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Neighbourhood Plan: Regeneration and new housing

Friday, 26 February 2021

Last week, the HebWeb published two articles on the new Neighbourhood Plan - see below for links. Today, we have the first in a series of weekly articles about specific aspects of the Neighbourhood Plan, to guide you through the detail and prompt some thoughts for your consultation response. Do you agree or disagree with what’s proposed? Have you other suggestions? There’s a discussion forum thread for any comments or ideas.

As a spatial plan one of the most important choices that the draft neighbourhood plan has to make is where new development should be encouraged, and alternatively discouraged. This issue is considered in section 5 page 26 onwards. As the Neighbourhood Plan was being developed, Calderdale’s local plan (also draft) was already moving to its current position on this issue: that large-scale development in the western part of Calderdale is not possible for a number of reasons linked to its protected biodiversity status, topography and poor transport connections. So Neighbourhood Plan policy 1 supports that constraint.

An equal restraint is provided by the Greenbelt designation across the Neighbourhood Plan area, the boundaries of which - tightly wrapped around the built-up settlements - have recently been reviewed by Calderdale and found to be sound. Parish councils in the uplands have nonetheless been concerned that inappropriate housing development might be attempted in the Greenbelt, so one of the key principles established early on is that new development should be located on sustainably located brownfield sites in the valley bottom, rather than on Greenbelt or greenfield sites in the uplands - policy 3. Meanwhile policy 2 identifies the synergies between the different parts of the Neighbourhood Plan’s 11,630 hectares area, recognising the need for the upland settlements to have access to facilities in the two big urban settlements, and for the solution to the latter’s flooding dangers to be also sought on the moorlands and slopes above - policy 2, and spatial diagram page 23.

The severe restraint on new development imposed by Calderdale’s Local Plan (LP) therefore resulted in just two sites within the Neighbourhood Plan area being proposed to be allocated for new housing, and one of those is on Greenbelt. If that’s excluded, the Local Plan is suggesting an allocation of just 20 new houses in the Neighbourhood Plan area (with additions also from existing planning permissions, and windfalls). With an Neighbourhood Plan population of 13,650, that cannot be an adequate response to housing need.

The Neighbourhood Plan committee for their part were concerned that, after the devastating 2015 floods,  those scarce valley-bottom brownfield sites, because they are also prone to flooding (flood zone 3a), could end up being permanently sterilised. So, after discussions with both Calderdale planners and the Environment Agency, agreement was reached that the neighbourhood plan would pioneer an approach that seeks to allocate some additional valley-bottom sites for housing as long as the schemes that come forward are designed to be flooding resilient (for example, the ground floor area is not used for habitation).

As a result policy 12 allocates 5 new housing sites, which might yield maybe 85  dwellings. This is not very much (which with existing planning permissions/windfalls might in total provide around 150 new dwellings by 2036) compared say to the proposal in the Local Plan that Brighouse should find sites for some 5,300 new houses. Originally the NP was considering more sites, which could eventually not be included. The largest of these - at King Street, Mytholm in Hebden Bridge (also known as the Brown’s site) - might conceivably still be a future possibility but at the moment it is designated flood zone 3b (functional floodplain) and has an existing planning permission for other uses.  You can read about the approach to housing provision in Neighbourhood Plan section 9 page 39 onwards.

The two big urban settlements - Hebden Bridge and Mytholmroyd - which took their modern form as market and manufacturing towns of real vernacular distinctiveness in the 19th century - have since been through various vicissitudes. The Neighbourhood Plan process thought that Mytholmroyd needed most attention, particularly in its centre, which had been weakened by a loss of retail activity and other facilities. Accordingly consultants AECOM were commissioned to prepare a masterplan for Mytholmroyd, presenting the opportunities for regeneration.

The Neighbourhood Plan is proposing to create two categories of sites and areas selected  for different types of improvement: ‘key sites’ where either the public authorities or owners already have an understanding as to what should be developed there; or ‘areas of interest’ where the need for action can be identified but as yet there’s no agreed approach - see policies 4 &5 and paragraph 5.5

There are 3 proposed key sites:

  • ‘Marketplace’, Hebden Bridge (so-called because it was until recently the site of the weekly public market), where there is the opportunity to transform the existing car park into a new public square facing the Town Hall, and with mixed use development including housing on the former fire station site, potentially extending to eventually include the existing BT Telecom site - paragraph 7.6
  • Former Vale Centre site, Stubbing Holme Road, Hebden Bridge: proposed for housing, with all the advantages of a sustainable town centre location, overlooking waterways on both sides, and which would act as the ‘anchor development’ for the regeneration of the wider Stubbing Holme area (see paragraph below) - paragraph 7.8
  • Mytholmroyd Community Centre, where the trustees wish to extend the recreation and community facilities that the site already provides - paragraph 6.8-9

8 Areas of Interest are proposed - 4 in Hebden Bridge, 3 in Mytholmroyd, and the Mayroyd site. What the selection of the latter site tells you is that this category doesn’t just include proposals for built development but also environmental improvement. The largest of the proposed designations is the Stubbing Holme area in Hebden Bridge, where the Vale Centre housing ‘key site’ is adjacent to an existing scrapyard and then the former but now disused Wireform mill. The Environment Agency is already beginning the process of improvement by developing proposals for increased flooding protection - policies 5 & 28 and paragraphs 6.10-11, 7.7, 7.9-10

There are policy statements for these ‘key sites’ and ‘areas of interest’ available for you to consider and comment on. And maybe there are other sites/areas you would like to suggest for consideration. Why not contribute to the Hebweb discussion thread especially created for this topic?

See also

HebWeb News: 10 things to know about the Neighbourhood Plan 18 Feb 2021

HebWeb News: Launch of public consultation for new Neighbourhood Plan 17 Feb 2021

Neighbourhood Plan website

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