Row breaks out over house building policy

The Government has been accused of double standards
The Government has been accused of double standards

A political row has broken out over how many new houses could and should be built in Pendle.

The Government has recommended reducing Pendle’s new home building target by 45% from its current annual figure of 298 new homes per year.

But Pendle’s Tory MP Andrew Stephenson and his party’s council colleagues have rounded on the local Labour administration for pressing ahead with more house building.

Despite Pendle Council having passed applications for more than 1,000 homes that have remained unbuilt, the target of 298 per year is pressurising councillors to pass even more to avoid penalties.

But Mr Stephenson said: “Naturally, I support economic growth and investment in Pendle, but these new figures show that what many of us have thought about Pendle Council’s Housing Target for some time is right – they are simply far too high.

“We now need to get them to revise their target down so it is more realistic and in line with the Government’s calculations.”

Pendle Council’s figures contained within its Core Strategy show that it is aiming for a target of 3,278 homes being built over the next 11 years.

However, if the council were to adopt the figures laid out in the new proposed Housing Need Consultation Data Table, just 1,463 homes would need to be built over that period.

Mr Stephenson’s views were echoed by Pendle’s Tory leader Coun. Joe Cooney who said: “Pendle’s population growth is negligible, so all the inflated targets are doing is encouraging developers to sit on valuable landbanks.

“The new target of 165 houses or flats per year is much more realistic and achievable. Pendle Council is busy selling off parcels of land to feed its own targets and its own coffers.

“Residents want this to stop and we will call the council to account.”

The leader of Pendle Council, Coun. Mohammed Iqbal, hit back at the accusations and said the Government’s proposed reduction came with no explanation.

He also accused the Tories of double standards – notably that Pendle Council has refused building applications recently, which have then been overturned by the Government Inspector.

Coun. Iqbal said: “This so called reduction is against the backdrop of the Tory government at the same time forcing Pendle Council to grant planning permission for housing and employment land.

“Indeed recent planning appeals by developments where the council refused housing have been overturned by government planning inspectors.

“I am like many people wary of the conservative government saying one thing but then penalising councils for a lack of house building.

“I have asked the MP and local Conservatives to join Labour and Liberal Democrat councillors on asking their government for a fair deal for Pendle.

“Sadly they are more interested in being the mouthpiece of Theresa May.

“The reality is that the Conservatives are at the forefront of forcing councils to allocate green fields for housing, it’s time they told residents the truth.”