Kirklees Council is looking at whether it needs to carry out a full-scale review of its Local Plan, a long-term blueprint for development in the district.
The current Local Plan came into force in February 2019 and a review must be undertaken within five years to ensure it is still “fit for purpose.”
The council has been working with colleagues at Barnsley Council and the Planning Officers Society to determine whether a full review is needed. It will report back to the council’s Cabinet on October 17.
A report to the council’s Growth and Regeneration Scrutiny Panel says that if a full review is needed it could cost up to £2 million.
A meeting of the scrutiny panel, at Dewsbury Town Hall, was told that the council was already missing its housing land targets.
Panel chairman Clr Moses Crook was concerned about the cost of a ‘review before a review’ when the council may already know a full review is needed.
He said: “The fact we have fallen below the statutory requirements for housing land available, does that trigger a renewal of the Local Plan?
“There are three outcome questions and one of the questions is: ‘Is your land allocation sufficient?’ If not then you are doing a review.
“Is it a foregone conclusion that this review will lead us to some substantive work on the Local Plan itself?”
Johanna Scrutton, planning policy team leader, replied: “Yes, we have fallen below the five-year land supply. It certainly could be one of the factors that triggers a review but it’s not a foregone conclusion.
“If we don’t look at it through a Local Plan review we’d have to look at an interim position to give clarity to developers, agents and communities on how we are going to deliver our housing land before we get our Local Plan update.”
Council officers said the whole process came with a cost and it would be wrong to cut corners.
David Shepherd, the council’s strategic director for growth and regeneration, said: “We will be as efficient as possible however we have had to set aside a budget to cover the costs.
“Where we can use internal resource from the planning service we will do so however a number of studies we need to undertake will need technical resource that does not exist within the council so we will need to commission that.
“We will also have to spend money on the consultation process. My belief is that it leads to better plan making and whichever administration is taking a decision on the outcome of the review they can do that with confidence knowing we have been through a robust process that sets a framework for planning decisions in the future.
“I don’t want us to cut corners or try to do something without putting the adequate resource in because this is quite an expensive process. But it does allow members to direct the development process across the whole of Kirklees which leads into hundreds of millions of pounds worth of investment decisions.”
Edward Highfield, service director for skills and regeneration, said: “The review has been done in-house and that’s quite an efficient and expedient use of resources.
“That’s not where the cost is. The cost will come if the review says we need a full update and that’s when we are into serious sums of money. You can’t cut corners, it has to be done well.”
Mr Highfield said the costs of a full review would not impact the council’s already under pressure budget, however.
He said the money would come from the Leeds City Region business rates pool, a “dividend” shared by Kirklees and West Yorkshire’s other local authorities.
The Local Plan, which runs until 2031, lays out how much development the council wants to achieve and where within Kirklees that development should take place.
The review will look at whether the Local Plan is meeting its original targets for housing and job creation.
Earlier this year the Liberal Democrats called for a change in how housing need was assessed.
They said the Kirklees target to build 31,140 new homes between 2013 and 2031 was based on “outdated” Office for National Statistics (ONS) predictions based on population growth in 2014.
The Lib Dems said the targets were unrealistic and put pressure on the unnecessary use of Green Belt land for house building.
Clr Graham Turner (pictured above), Cabinet member for growth and regeneration, said: “The Kirklees Local Plan is all about the bigger picture and how we deliver our ambitious plans to develop Kirklees over not just years but decades to come.
“When we first launched the Local Plan in 2019, we knew this review would be coming. Things change over time, and our long-term plans need to remain relevant in order to deliver.
“But back in 2019, no-one could have foreseen the level of change that Kirklees – and our country as a whole – have seen since.
“Taking an in-depth look at how our original plans have held up against all that change is now more important than ever.”