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Legal challenge over council's plans for future homes development in Barnsley

Challenge: Developer Steven Green believes Barnsley Council's housing plans are inadequate.
Challenge: Developer Steven Green believes Barnsley Council's housing plans are inadequate.
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A developer disputing Barnsley Council’s proposals for new housing and employment expansion has called in a barrister to make their case that more sites should be included to plug gaps in the current plan.

The council is in the advanced stages of drawing up a Local Plan which will set out where land will be available for employers to develop new sites, along with others to provide housing to accommodate those who will move in to take up the new jobs.

A Government planning inspector must approve the plan as ‘sound’ before it can be adopted and following earlier consultations planners were told they had not allowed for enough new homes and must identify new sites, particularly in village locations.

Several of the new sites they listed have since been dropped as unsuitable, though the council insist that even with the loss of the 1600 homes they would have provided, it is still on target to meet the Inspector’s expectations.

However, Yorkshire Land, a company with a long-term interest in developing sites in the area has had details of the scheme examined by London barrister Sasha White QC, who has now written to the council saying: “The clear gap created means that the solution offered by the council to address the Inspector’s interim findings will not at present be sufficient.”

Among its interests in the district, Yorkshire Land has two sites it wants to develop in Oxspring, for both business and housing, which the barrister’s letter states would help provide a solution.

A former petrol dump on Ministry of Defence land has been vacant for many years and Yorkshire Land, owned by businessman Steven Green, want to develop it as a business park, citing a need for new job opportunities in the Penistone district which are not properly addressed by the one site included in the current draft of the Local Plan.

They also want to see housing on a site off Sheffield Road, which they say would offer many advantages in terms of commuter access to major roads, the Trans Pennine Trail for those working locally and the opportunity to provide new facilities in the village.

Neither site has been included in the council’s plans, but Yorkshire Land believe errors were made when they were assessed four years ago as part of a Green Belt review across the borough.

Shasha White’s letter to Barnsley Council states: “It seems to us that the present predicament can be readily resolved by actively considering alternative sites proposed by Yorkshire Land.

“This is a convenient and available solution to the problem, and will have the double benefit of mitigating the serious errors Yorkshire Land allege to have occurred in ARUP’s Green Belt review and the site selection process.”

The letter also warns Yorkshire Land has raised concerns about whether there will be sufficient housing development, sites for that and inadequacies over the way sites were assessed and selected “all of which may be separate grounds of challenge if not properly addressed”.

Consultations are currently in progress over the Local Plan and when they are complete, the planning inspector will make a decision on whether any further changes are needed or whether the council has done enough to address her earlier concerns.

Barnsley Council is now confident they have met the inspector’s concerns and hope the process of adopting the Local Plan can go ahead later in the year.

That would be a significant change because at present the authority is unable to demonstrate the borough has a five year supply of land for new housing and Government rules mean it is difficult to defend against planning applications for homes on sites which will not be included in the new plan.