Barnsley’s long-awaited Local Plan – the blueprint for major housing and employment development in the years ahead – could be formally adopted by councillors within days of the start of 2019 after being formally approved by a Government inspector.
A special meeting of Barnsley Council is being arranged for January 3 to discuss the final document and if they approve, it will become council policy, sealing the areas already earmarked for potential development during the last two years of consultations.
The document is important for several reasons, opening up opportunities for businesses to either expand within Barnsley or move into the area and by making it more difficult for builders to push through speculative planning applications on sites the council would prefer to see undeveloped.
At present that can happen because councils are expected to have a landbank earmarked for the next five years’ housing needs and until the Local Plan is adopted, Barnsley Council does not fit that criteria, meaning those applying for planning permission automatically have a strong argument in their favour.
If the plan is adopted in January, it will give a green light for major new developments in some parts of Barnsley, including a large site between Gawber and Barugh Green, which has been the subject of fierce opposition from a group including former Barnsley Central MP Eric Illsley, who are concerned about the loss of green space and the impact of extensive new construction.
However, the next stage of the process will be for the council to develop masterplans for each of the affected areas, to help fine tune the way work progresses.
They will have to be signed off by the council’s ruling Cabinet before the process of individual planning applications begins.
Progress will also be subject to stringent monitoring, with local authorities now expected to review their Local Plans every five years, although the documents project much further.
The council’s head of planning, Joe Jenkinson, said sites for job creation had: “Been identified as employment sites because they have strong sustainability credentials but also because they are areas which will be attractive to the market.
“The constrained land supply has been a challenge when we have been trying to attract inward investment, or when Barnsley businesses have been wanting to expand.
“Now they will have a choice in terms of do they want to go to junction 36 or 37 (of the M1) or into the Dearne,” he said.
The masterplan framework documents will be formulated for the new large urban areas which will develop and will start with public engagement, being drawn up to make sure the infrastructure such as the road network is suitable to deal with the increased demand to be generated.
Alongside those documents, new planning policies will also be introduced to help work out how developers will be expected to meet the need for fresh costs, such as additional school places and issues which can prove awkward in planning terms, such as how to control the spread of take-away food shops.