Leader welcomes Clegg’s garden cities call

NICK Clegg has risked incurring the wrath of York Liberal Democrats by backing large scale housing developments in a letter to the city’s Labour council leader.

Housing is top of the political agenda in York

In the letter, the Liberal Democrat leader criticises “incremental” housing development adding homes to existing communities and advocates larger schemes on “Garden City” principles that are accompanied by new schools and other key infrastructure.

Future housing is the most contentious issue currently facing York Council as the main political groups battle over the city’s developing local plan which will allocate which land should be allocated for new homes.

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The Labour-run authority
initially set out proposals to
make land available for 22,000 homes over 15 years in the local plan which has been reduced to just under 17,000 in the latest draft.

But recent changes in the political make-up of the authority meant Labour lost its overall majority and opposition groups are now seeking to use their new power to make significant changes.

Mr Clegg was responding to a letter from York Council leader James Alexander asking whether the city may benefit from the Lib Dem leader’s proposals to offer rewards – such as council tax discounts – to communities that accept housing developments nearby.

In his letter, Mr Clegg does not refer to York’s local plan specifically but criticises previous Governments for failing to build enough houses.

He writes: “I recognise that the incremental add-on style of development, or ‘urban sprawl’, tends to cause high levels of local resentment.

“Building around the edges of existing developments often destroys local green spaces, does nothing to improve local infrastructure and tends to create a drain on resources such as schools and hospitals.”

The Lib Dem leader said he was looking at a “range of options” to encourage communities to accept new garden cities.

Coun Alexander said: “I welcome Nick Clegg’s support for new rural settlements, minimising the need for urban extensions.

“This is exactly what Labour has proposed in York to tackle our homes crisis. It is disappointing York’s Liberal Democrats aren’t as supportive.

“Instead they have opposed any such settlements, perpetuating young families to live in ‘generation rent’.”

Both the Liberal Democrat and Conservative groups in York have questioned the council’s approach to drawing up the local plan and recently succeeding in halting the consultation on the current draft while a new report on the number of houses needed is drawn up.

In a separate development, Yorkshire Wildlife Trust has secured the backing of York Outer MP Julian Sturdy in its efforts to prevent land close to the Askham Bog Nature Reserve being earmarked for housing in York’s local plan.

Rob Stoneman, Yorkshire Wildlife Trust’s chief executive said: “In 1946, the renowned chocolatiers Rowntree and Terry joined forces to protect one of the greatest wildlife sites in Yorkshire from the threat of housing development by buying Askham Bog.

“In turn, they founded the Yorkshire Wildlife Trust to look after the site which today manages a further 95 sites across all of Yorkshire. Askham Bog is as special today as it was then and faces a new threat from housing south of Moor Lane.”