Housing developers in parts of Barnsley could face a ‘roof tax’ in future to help pay for the upgrades needed to ensure the major roads network can cope with the extra traffic a major expansion in house numbers will bring.
The council is planning for thousands of new homes to go up in the years ahead, with some districts earmarked for large scale housing developments, though those proposals still have to be given final approval by a Government inspector.
If that happens, as expected, it is acknowledged there will be an impact on the highways system, with some roads and junctions unable to adequately cope with the increases – and the expectation now is that costs of upgrading the affected roads will have rest with developers putting up the homes.
Details of how Barnsley Council will manage the costs have still to be decided, but it has already been acknowledged that expecting one building firm to pay for improvements to compensate for their development would be unfair, because it could give an advantage to others building in the area later, because the expense of upgrading roads would have already been borne by a competitor.
Instead, the council is looking at a system of establishing the costs of wide-reaching traffic schemes and paying for them – at least in part – through a levy on all new builders in the area, something the council’s head of planning, Joe Jenkinson, referred to as ‘roof tax’.
The council has spent years working on a document called the Local Plan, which sets out a blueprint for the way both industry and housing will develop in Barnsley into the 2030s, a document so complex it has to be approved by a planning inspector before it can be adopted.
It is expected that approval will come in the months ahead and following that, a masterplan framework will be set out, Mr Jenkinson told councillors on Barnsley Council’s planning board.
“The masterplan framework is about looking at the area, understanding what the infrastructure cost is and dividing it up. It would be akin to a roof tax.
“We are alive to the issues on a number of arterial roads in the borough, both in terms of enhancing public transport and capacity.
“It is a case of making sure the developers pay their fair share,” he said.
He was speaking as councillors questioned the impact of extra traffic from a new housing development on a former factory site off Wakefield Road in Mapplewell.
They were told that although the development, along with a supermarket, would increase traffic four junctions in the vicinity would end up over capacity under any circumstances in the years ahead, as traffic volumes increase.
Both developments were approved by councillors who had been told the projections for the traffic they would generate were not high enough for council officials to recommend rejecting the scheme.
However, they were told that it is expected in future the junctions of Wakefield Road and Lee Lane, Paddock Road, Rotherham Road and Barr Lane – all in the vicinity of the new developments – were expected to become overwhelmed by traffic in the years ahead.
As a result, they will be put on the highways department’s forward planning schedule so they can be factored in for improvements.
Wakefield Road forms part of the A61 and Mr Jenkinson told the meeting that the road’s significance in West Yorkshire – running into Barnsley – as “a corridor of real importance” was now recognised regionally and that could result in some investment for the road in future.