York Labour Councillors have slammed the attitude of the Liberal Democrat/Green Party led council administration in its response to government inspectors’ criticism of its 20 year city development plan.
In a recent letter to the council, the Local Plan examiners described aspects of the council’s defined Green Belt as “not adequately robust”, with “intrinsic flaws in the methodology”. They also cited examples of Green Belt boundaries running through the middle of a built up area in the council leader’s ward as “wholly illogical”.
In response, the council have written back to the examiners, vowing to press ahead with the current plan while “demonstrating that the boundaries are justified notwithstanding your methodological concerns.”
Labour’s housing spokesperson, Councillor Michael Pavlovic, took issue with the council’s letter.
“We find the Lib Dem-Green Administration’s response to the inspectors’ concerns quite arrogant and dismissive,” he said, “and one which will only harm York in the inspection process. It will likely take the council down a path of a prolonged examination that will be both very time-consuming and very costly to the local taxpayer, beyond the almost £2m the Lib Dems have already spent attempting to get a Local Plan adopted.
“The option to withdraw the plan and re-submit a new version fairly quickly, one that addresses the inspectors’ concerns, has been dismissed in a move of boneheaded stubbornness, for reasons only ruling Liberal Democrats can explain.
“There is a sense in the administration’s approach that the taxpayer has given it a blank cheque, in a process that looks set to go on for a number of years more. It’s as clear an example of politics trumping effective city leadership that you could imagine”.
Councillor Claire Douglas, Labour’s spokesperson on planning, agreed.
“Unfortunately we’re seeing huge sums of public money wasted on the Local Plan due to the decisions Liberal Democrats have taken in recent years running the council, and still they’ve been unable to get over the main hurdle of getting a Local Plan adopted.
“They now intend to spend hundreds of thousands more on an unnecessary and prolonged inspection process, at a time when council budgets are severely stretched, essential services are under huge pressure, and money is needed for investment to help our city recover from the impacts of the Covid 19 outbreak. The Local Plan should be complete by now and not sucking away more and more public money.
“The Local Plan probably doesn’t mean very much to the average York resident, but the city having more well paid jobs and more decent quality, affordable homes does, so we view this seemingly endless, strung-out process as doing the city’s residents no good at all”.
Labour has said that the serious flaws in the green belt elements of the Local Plan means the city’s green belt cannot be protected from speculative development, all the time that York has no adopted Local Plan. With massive delays and inflated costs, the Local Plan joins the Community Stadium and the council’s Guildhall project as other major projects beset by problems in recent years under Lib Dem control of York council.