Consultants are in conflict with Barnsley Council planners over the numbers of new homes the authority expects to see built in the town during the years ahead – and have called for more sites to be opened up for development.
What could be the last round of public consultations have now ended for the town’s forthcoming Local Plan, a blueprint which will set out sites to be developed for both housing and industry in the decades ahead.
Council planners are now waiting for a final assessment from a Government planning inspector, who must judge their plan as ‘sound’ before it can be adopted and they have had to make adjustments to address concerns raised earlier in the process.
Over the life of the plan the council must have enough sites available to meet the demand for new homes that will be generated by fresh economic growth, meaning new jobs, in the district.
Planners have been forced to increase the number of new homes in their plans because the inspector believed earlier projections were too low.
But numbers of homes built must also be ‘front loaded’ in the early years of the plan, to catch up with a historic shortfall where too few homes have been constructed in recent years.
That has put the authority in conflict with consultants Paul Butler Planning, who have examined the council’s proposals and believe them to be flawed.
Their findings are that over the life of the plan, the council can expect to see more than 2,000 fewer homes provided than its own projections suggest, with a shortfall of almost 600 in the first five years.
Using different criteria, the numbers would grown to more than 1,600 too few homes in the first five years.
At an earlier stage of the plan’s progress, Barnsley Council was told to increase the number of sites for new homes available, particularly in village locations, which it did.
However, some of those have since been discounted, though the council remains confident it has now identified the correct land supply to meet the commitments the Local Plan will bring.
Now PBP have written to the council, stating: “There is still a full opportunity for a constructive approach to be taken to address the loss of sites.
“If this opportunity is not taken and the Barnsley Local Plan is adopted without filling the gap left....then the Barnsley Local Plan will be at serious risk of a challenge.
“We suggest that the inspector and council make it clear that it is either inviting written representations or an additional hearing to consider alternative sites, replacing those withdrawn by the council or rejected by the inspector.”
The consultants were commissioned by Yorkshire Land, a development company which has been promoting a range of sites for both housing and commercial development.
Yorkshire Land, owned by businessman Steven Green, believes the current land allocation under the proposed Local Plan relies too heavily on sites in areas of low housing demand, meaning the council will struggle to see enough new homes constructed and sold to meet the expectations of the plan.
They have also focused concerns on the provision of land for new employment opportunities in Penistone, where one site has been allocated by the council.
It is argued that site has restrictions which will make it difficult for potential developers to exploit, with Yorkshire Land offering to develop the former Conoco petrol storage site on the edge of Thurgoland and Oxspring as an alternative with good access.
The next stage of progress with the Local Plan will be the next round of feedback from the Government inspector, but Barnsley Council is hopeful it will be in a position to formally adopt the plan within months.