It falls to unpaid volunteers to sort out LDF mess

Early in 2004 Kirklees Council held a public meeting to introduce the approaching Local Development Framework (LDF).

The LDF, when completed, was to define the future of development in the Kirklees area. So our planners and their managers have had ten years to formulate the LDF in accordance with the Government guidelines, taking account of local (i.e. our) wishes while fulfilling expressed central Government requirements for housing and industrial development.

Recently the Government inspector, charged with reviewing the LDF plans for all Councils, has rejected the LDF plans submitted by Kirklees as being inadequate.

For us, as residents of Mirfield and district this is quickly becoming very serious indeed. Now any number of developers have come to our area and put forward proposals, including building on greenfield sites, re-classification of sections of green belt in preparation for a planning application all on the grounds of non-determination (i.e. no LDF) in Kirklees with a very good chance that they will get their way. Non determination you will recognise as a polite way of developers saying because your authority has failed to produce an acceptable plan this is our alternative proposal.

You may think that our planning system is such that the planning committee can reject frivolous or irresponsible applications. Of course this is correct, but should a developer appeal against a rejection, KMC have declared that they will not contest such a bid on the grounds that they have no stomach for a fight. Sadly this is not fanciful as a recent planning application in Skelmanthorpe was initially rejected by planners, but when the developer appealed KMC raised no objections and our observers felt that they actually sided with the applicant.

So what do we think is happening? Kirklees took 10 years to come up with a flawed plan and have gone away to re-draft it - and how long will that take? In the meantime our neighbourhoods are vulnerable to any and all attacks from developers. Our own Town Council have a Plans Scrutiny Committee which can make recommendations to KMC about planning applications but this is of course a lesser voice than that of KMC themselves.

The bit of this that is most repellent is that you and I have been paying KMC for at least ten years for this to be done to us. An informed estimate shows that the department within Kirklees responsible for this omni-shambles has cost us at least £ 250,000 per year with salaries, gold plated pensions etc. and this equates to £ 2.5 million over the ten years – luxury to infinity and beyond that most of us could only ever dream about, but that we are obliged to continue to fund.

Sadly it falls to us as residents and unpaid Town and Parish Councillors to do their job and fight the most irresponsible and damaging applications as best we can, but the question we must address locally and nationally, is what exactly are we paying for and must we hit the streets and break some windows before the apparatchiks of Local Government start to rid their organisations of currently untouchable failed functionaries and replace them with capable people?

Tim Conolly

Primrose Lane