New homes target rejected in York planning blueprint

THE first city-wide development blueprint for York in more than half a century risks creating 'the worst sort of dormitory', a senior politician in the city warned last night.

Coun Janet Looker, Labour leader of York Council

York Council produced the long-awaited “publication draft” of its Local Plan on Monday, following criticism and the threat of intervention by the Communities Secretary Sajid Javid, who two months ago accused York and 14 other authorities of failing in their duties to meet deadlines.

The new version of the plan, which will be discussed by senior councillors over the next few weeks, rejects proposals by a property consultant commissioned by the council to build nearly 1,000 new houses every year. Instead, the figure is pegged at 867 – only a slight increase on the number mooted in 2016.

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The council now says its consultant’s recommendations were “speculative and arbitrary” and relied too heavily on “unrepresentative trends and attached little or no weight to the special character and setting of York”.

Coun Janet Looker, leader of the Labour group on York’s hung council, said the figure was too low to combat the shortage of affordable housing in the city, one of Yorkshire’s property hotspots.

She said that squeezing in additional homes would allow for a new secondary school to serve the Heslington and Elvington suburbs east of the city.

“That area is definitely going to need a new school if there is any significant increase in housing,” Coun Looker said. “Unless you build a community large enough to sustain one, you end up creating the worst sort of dormitory.”

Council leader David Carr, who also heads its Conservative group, said the plan “demonstrated our commitment to listen and be fair to residents, businesses, developers and landowners”.

He added: “We believe that this plan strikes the right balance between providing homes and employment while protecting our green belt and the special character and setting of York.”

Liberal Democrat Andrew Waller, the council’s interim deputy leader, said the city needed to “encourage sustainable development and maintain the positive features which make York a good place to live”.

The latest draft of the plan proposes up to 1,000 extra houses within the York Central development area – a 72-acre brownfield site to the west of the railway station. The site has drawn criticism from York Central’s Labour MP Rachael Maskell, who said properties there would be snapped up by commuters and for weekend use, and do nothing to help those on the city’s housing waiting list.

The York blueprint has been dogged by political rows over housing numbers. Nearly five years ago, with the council under Labour control, proposals were unveiled for 22,000 homes by 2030. The number was subsequently reduced to 17,000 and the process is now being overseen by a Tory and Lib Dem coalition.

Coun Looker said she hoped a consensus could now be reached on housing, but added that many “key workers” in the city could no longer afford to live there,

“She said: I want to send out an olive branch. I’m not entrenched and I’m very happy to discuss these issues and if we can reach an understanding between us, I will be very happy to support a local plan.

“But I’m not going to roll over because there are real issues here for York’s housing.”