Last December planners rejected Strata Homes’ proposal to build 174 new homes at the former Southedge Quarry, Brighouse Road, Lightcliffe.
But this time Calderdale councillors were mindful to permit the resubmitted plans after being told by a senior planning officer the authority’s chances of winning an appeal to the Planning Inspectorate against a refusal were “virtually inconceivable.”
Strata Homes had withdrawn a planning appeal against last year’s refusal and resubmitted plans with more detail as to how concerns would be managed and the addition of two extra homes.
Objectors to the plan - the council received more than 130 as well as 11 letters of support - were particularly concerned about moving of hazardous material including asbestos on the site and highways issues, including the impact on the already affected Hipperholme crossroads.
Mark Knapton, speaking on behalf of Hipperholme and Lightcliffe Ward Planning Action Group, said the plans should be refused because they were not substantially different to those already rejected, had inadequate information about key issues such as potential flooding from landfill, and air quality and ecology issues breached policies.
He told Calderdale Council’s Planning Committee proposals were high risk in terms of remediating the site, and traffic impacts would be severe.
“Wildlife corridors would be decimated. There are several legal grounds for judicial review and going to the Ombudsman,” he said.
Mr Knapton also said many of the homes - three to five bedroomed - planned for the site were not what Calderdale required.
Coun George Robinson (Con, Hipperholme and Lightcliffe), concerned about the impact of gases including methane trapped in the landfill, was also worried about the safety of open space mounds planned for the site.
“As far as I’m concerned we are going to have young kids dancing on top of landfill. This to me is a botch job and I don’t feel comfortable with these public amenity areas,” he said.
But the council’s officers said they believed concerns raised and problems posed could be controlled through a series of conditions and agreements.
And agent for Strata Homes, Emma Lancaster, alongside a number of experts including on remediation, said the new application demonstrated development could be controlled and mitigated.
The council’s planning lead, Richard Seaman, told councillors Calderdale had sought legal advice and in the planning barrister’s words: “In event of appeal it would be virtually inconceivable that the council would win.”
“There was a strong concern there would be an award of costs against the council for unreasonable behaviour,” said Mr Seaman.
Councillors, who had also asked a range of questions including about number of HGV movements and land stability via highways and transport worries, were told an environmental permit would be needed from the Environment Agency before work could start but this did not affect the planning decision.
Although appearing reluctant, they were mindful to permit the plans subject to conditions and legal agreements, after Coun David Kirton’s (Con, Hipperholme and Lightcliffe) bid to refuse them was defeated by a majority of councillors.
Mr Seaman had told councillors the harm-benefit balance would only swing further in the direction of harm, giving Calderdale more leeway to refuse plans under national policy guidelines, when it could demonstrate it had a five-year supply of sites where development could take place.
This would only happen when the borough’s draft Local Plan, now in its final stages, is approved.