Row over new homes target in Local Plan for Pendle
Labour accused the ruling Conservative group recently of putting the borough's Green Field sites at risk by not voting for the Local Plan in its current format, prompting a response from the Tories that their revised Plan would see less new homes built in the future.
In particular, beauty spot Gib Hill, a green space between Nelson and Colne, has found itself as the "battleground" for these political rows in the last 12 months.Leader of the Labour Group, Coun. Mohammed Iqbal, said: “The Tories were elected on a promise to stand up against their own government and protect our cherished areas from development.
"Over the last seven months they have presided over an attitude of doing nothing and at the last full council meeting voted to not approve a plan. It feels like a direct of betrayal of those people who elected them."
Deputy leader of the Labour group, Coun. Asjad Mahmood, added: “I along with other colleagues campaigned to protect areas such as Gib Hill from development. By their actions at full council the Tories have once again shown their true colours and put at risk Gib Hill and other areas. Tthey should hang their heads in shame."
But Pendle's Tories responded by saying they took advantage of the markedly lower housing target afforded by the Government’s Standard Methodology.
This is 142 new homes for Pendle annually, which they said compares very favourably to the previous administration’s "inflated" target of 298 new homes per year.
This target of 298 drove the Local Plan II selection of sites, which included Gib Hill.
Once the decision was made to pursue the 142 Standard Methodology target, the Conservatives took advice from officers and were told that they must wait for the results of the Local Plan II public consultation to feed through and then the decision must be presented to Full Council for it to make the final decision.
Conservative Council leader, Coun. Nadeem Ahmed, said: "The Conservatives took this legal advice. No political party voted to adopt the Local Plan II. Legal advice was sought from the council’s counsel about whether the council could simply present the draft Plan for inspection with the new Standard Methodology Housing Target, or whether the underpinning evidence base would need to be rewritten.
"The legal advice was clear that the evidence base must support the new, lower figure. The Conservatives took this legal advice and the vote to revisit the evidence base was won, despite opposition from the other parties.
“In refocussing the new Local Plan around the lower figure of 142, the requirement to build on Pendle’s Green Fields is significantly lessened.
"The Local Plan is a legal document and we are following legal advice to ensure that it has the best chance of succeeding. We strove to avoid a delay in presenting this to the council, but this could not have been avoided if the process was to be followed correctly.
“The council owns Gib Hill and under a Conservative administration it will not be selling it for housing development. Instead, we are working with the Lancashire Wildlife Trust to find the best way to create a nature reserve on this ecologically rich site.”