A development firm has raised the prospect of legal action to halt a major new policy expected to be adopted by a special meeting of Barnsley Council next week, following years of preparation work.
The authority has finally completed its Local Plan, a document crucial to the development of the borough because it identifies all the major sites which will be available for both house building and industrial development in the years ahead.
However Harrogate company Yorkshire Land believe the finished plan is flawed, because of a lack of new job creation sites in the rural west of the borough and through the way land has been allocated for housing.
Several development companies, including Yorkshire Land, presented arguments for various proposals to a Government planning inspector at a series of public examination hearings, with that company suggesting new housing in the village of Oxspring and a new business park on a redundant petrol dump nearby.
Although the planning inspector suggested more housing in rural villages, Yorkshire Land’s proposals were overlooked even though an alternative site for a housing estate in the village flagged up by the council was later dropped because of its sensitive location.
During the hearing, the company’s proposals were supported by legal opinion from a barrister and now the company is assessing its options.
They are limited because the planning inspector has found the plan to be ‘sound’, meaning their involvement in assessing its suitability is now at an end and it is back in the hands of Barnsley Council.
In a statement, Yorkshire Land said they: “Have repeatedly made it known that it is our desire to work together with the council to have sound local plan in place as soon as practically possible.
“We have now had sight of the final report in respect of the local plan and it is apparent that the fails we have detailed throughout the examination have not been addressed by the local plan inspector.”
They argue a housing needs assessment has previously identified a need for new homes in Oxspring, which remains unaddressed and also believe they have identified flaws in the way decisions were made about allocating land for employment in the district.
The company states: “We believe each of the concerns we have outlined has implications on the soundness of the Barnsley Local Plan, and the only option now available to us in remedying these failings is to issue a Judicial Review under section 113 of the Planning and Compulsory Purchase Act 2004.”
If such a review was successful, it could force the council back to the drawing board.
Developing the local plan has been an extended process because of the complications of producing such a wide-ranging document.
It opens the way for major new developments, which have been formulated as package aimed at creating both new jobs and enough housing for the workers they are expected to bring into the town.
The objective is to make the town more attractive to prospective employers by providing different options for development sites and also to give the council greater control over where new homes are built.
At present the council does not have enough land for a five year housing supply and planning rules give developers an advantage in those circumstances, which is widely regarded as a ‘loophole’ because it limits the powers to decline applications to build on sites the council would otherwise prefer to leave undeveloped.
With a local plan, and the guarantees of land supply it brings, in place, that situation is reversed.