Tonight there's a public meeting organized by the Parish Council on Bradford council's plans for more housing in the town (and across the valley). There's already been a 'lively' Civic Society meeting (though the report is before the meeting took place...)
Opposition is ramping up. A lot of activity is coming via benrhydding.org, which will be hosting resources once public representations can be made (starting on Monday 17th Feb). The core strategy can be found (if you download the PDF) here. As you might remember, the 800 homes suggested for the town is a reduction which was trumpeted by the city council as a result of all the listening they were doing. The map (PDF) of potential sites is here.
Leaving aside for a moment the building on green belt and the potential for CPO of land (unless the riding school owners will, in fact, become developers in a JV*), and the fact that one of the sites does rather, you know, flood. Bradford council has it reasons: it has to meet housing targets set by the government (indeed, they've recently done rather well out of their desire to build), and it is supposedly one of the fastest growing cities in the country. The core strategy tackles this by developing targets for building on brownfield sites around the city centre, alongside bringing empty houses back into use (8.37% of homes in Manningham are currently empty according to the evidence base). And, of course, building on some of the greenbelt.
But are new houses in Ilkley actually needed, or in any way relevant to perceived demand? Where Bradford is growing (if it actually is) appears to be through birth rather than migration; it's the bulge in the under-5s and under-19s that specifically led to the census population reports.
Bradford’s population is increasing: from just over 500,000 estimated by ONS in 2008, it is expected to increase to at least 40,000 over the next 25 years, mainly due to a high birth rate
(from the 'Bradford Housing evidence base' (PDF))
And these, patently, aren't likely to be buying (or wanting) houses in Ilkley (or Menston or Burley or any other leafy part of the city). In fact, they're not likely to be buying houses at all.
Given the level of empty homes mentioned above, there's actually a question over whether even Bradford itself really needs more new housing. We know, for instance, that the market is suggesting (unlike Ilkley) that there's no demand for new housing in Bradford itself--prices are dropping or stable in both sale and rented sectors. And there's currently little demand to bring those empty Manningham homes back into use.
For Ilkley, there's nothing in the core strategy about enhanced infrastructure. Schools in the town are already over-full: Ashlands building new classrooms means they'll have two classes at 30 pupils per year from now on; IGS is nearly at 2,000 pupils, even its massive Year 7 entry (245 pupils!) is 50% over-subscribed and far too big to be effective. The Medical Centre is at capacity, judging by the lack of ease in getting an appointment. And, as for traffic through the town...How are an extra 800 households to be supported?
There's also a major (for Ilkley near-fatal) flaw in the way the core strategy is set up. As Cllr Cooke has pointed out, Leeds made a huge mistake in not detailing that brownfield sites should be utilised first before the greenbelt is taken away. Given the issues around development of brownfield sites, indeed, it's likely that the green belt will go first: it's relatively easy, and, more importantly, very profitable for the developers.
Now, given there is no increased demand for housing in Bradford, possibly no actual population growth, and, even if there was, it's not relevant to Ilkley, one does wonder why the council is so eager to build all over the valleys. The prospect of that £20million in extra funding can;t be having an influence surely?
*NOTE: subsequent twitter conversation suggest that the land used by the riding school next to the A65 is actually BMDC's; any information gratefully received.