Worries over threat to district’s green belt land played down

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SELBY District Council chiefs have moved to allay concerns that green belt land across the area is now under threat of development owing to proposed changes to its 15-year development blueprint that was controversially suspended earlier this year.

The Yorkshire Post revealed in November that the council’s Core Strategy, which sets out a development blueprint for the area up to 2026, had been suspended following an independent two-week hearing into the document.

A Government planning inspector acknowledged concerns from Yorkshire’s oldest brewery, Samuel Smith’s, and others, that the council expanding into green-belt land to meet housing targets, and excessive growth planned for Tadcaster, represented deficiencies in the plan.

The council was also asked to reconsider overall housing targets owing to evidence pointing to a level of need “significantly above” its present aim of delivering 440 homes a year.

This week, its proposed changes to the strategy have been unveiled to councillors before being resubmitted to the planning inspector, among them the controversial announcement that it will now be reviewing green belt land in areas where there is a high level of housing need.

However, Coun Mark Crane, the leader of Selby District Council, said this would only be in exceptional circumstances and insisted that the current affordable homes crisis would not be at the expense of the district’s green spaces.

“I can absolutely assure people that this does not mean green belt land across Selby will be built on,” he told the Yorkshire Post.

“We have agreed to review green belt across the district where there is a housing need.

“Before we develop any part of green belt land, we would absolutely go out to a public consultation.”

The other main change to the strategy proposed by the council’s executive and policy review committee and agreed by the council on Tuesday, was to aim for a target of building an average of 450 new homes in the district every year up to 2027 – an increase of 10 a year on the original strategy.

The altered strategy will now be resubmitted to the planning inspector, with the proposed changes up for public consultation in the new year.

The council’s executive member with responsibility for place shaping, Coun John Mackman, who has been leading on this work, said: “The examination in public adjournment has given us an opportunity to reassess some aspects of the core strategy.

“We’ve looked again at the evidence and now agreed a proposed way forward which, we think, will meet the requirements for this document to be adopted.

“From here we’ll publicise the proposed changes to the core strategy prior to the examination in public reopening.

“We anticipate it will reopen in the spring, although final details are yet to be agreed.”

Coun Mackman has revealed £1.5m has been spent over the last four years on the Selby district’s core strategy, and has voiced concerns over the financial implications if the planning inspector decides not to agree to the revised plans.

The council is also at loggerheads with Samuel Smith’s over the expansion of Tadcaster’s central area car park, with the case set to return to the High Court, as revealed in the Yorkshire Post yesterday.

Planning permission for these improvements was granted in April, but the brewery applied for a judicial review of the process, which was refused in September.

However the brewery has since lodged an appeal and the proposed redevelopment will now await a High Court decision in the new year.

The case for judicial review put forward by Samuel Smith’s brewery is based on a number of issues, but centres primarily on Selby District Council’s proposal to use tarmac to resurface the car park and whether or not this is a suitable material.