Planners proposing new housing developments in a string of villages across Barnsley have been questioned about why some previously dismissed as unsuitable are now included while a prime contender on an earlier assessment has now been ruled out.
The apparent anomalies were raised at an examination hearing in front of a Government planning inspector, who will decide whether Barnsley Council’s future plans for housing and employment are ‘sound’ enough to be adopted as formal policy.
The council was forced to think again about putting housing into village locations after inspector Sarah Housden questioned the lack of such sites at an earlier hearing.
As a result, planners assessed all 32 villages in the district and made a decision to look for housing sites in those which ‘scored’ the highest, on a chart to rank how sustainable they would be in supporting a larger community, with a break point score of 15 deciding which would be considered.
The last assessment was done in 2003 when the village of Little Houghton was given a high score which would, at the time, have made it a strong contender for housing growth.
But on the latest assessment it was almost at the bottom of the chart, meaning it has been ruled out for development.
Meanwhile, the village of Cawthorne has been given a higher score which puts in line new housing and the council has earmarked a site it would like to see developed.
However, the council’s methods in drawing up the list have been called into question by some of those giving evidence, including Cawthorne Parish Councillor Tony Butterworth, who said the 2003 assessment demonstrated the village was not ‘sustainable’ for housing.
“Nothing has changed, other than inadequate broadband. I would like to know what has moved us from a small village with 14 points to a large village with 16 points?”
Planning officer Paula Tweed told the hearing that scores had changed because some criteria used in 2003 were now regarded as being out of date while others, such as broadband coverage, had been included.
The reliability of broadband services was also called into question, with Dave Griffin, a Barnsley Councillor and campaigner against a proposed housing development in Silkstone Common stating that the council’s assessment of broadband access “was not the experience of many in the village.”
Architect Michael Clynch also launched an attack on the council’s whole philosophy in assessing villages for potential development.
He told the hearing: “I am concerned about the whole sustainability issue. Everyone has a car in a village, its a fact of life.
“We have talked about the availability of home working and the way work patterns are changing.
“The retail sector is in chaos. The world is a changing place. This plan is meant to take us forwards for the next couple of decades.
“This plan is based on outdated criteria of how villages now operate.
“In Skipton, planners have incorporated massive housing developments. We are missing a trick. Instead of trying to hang on to what we have now we should be looking at what we can achieve,” he said.