THE ‘most important’ policy Barnsley Council is responsible for - the town’s blueprint for future development - will not be altered despite fresh calls to reopen it to public scrutiny.
Known as the local plan, which was adopted by the council in 2019 following public consultation, it sets out how the local authority manages the future of the borough’s empty sites for housing and business growth.
It has been mired in controversy due to large-scale building on former green belt land but a review - called for by the town’s Liberal Democrats in a bid to review it - was dismissed at yesterday’s full council meeting.
Coun Peter Fielding, who represents the Lib Dems in the Dodworth ward, said: “It is wrong that the council are trying to avoid any consultation on the future of the local plan.
“The demographics of Barnsley have changed significantly since 2019 and the projected population growth is not materialising.
“This is arguably the single-most important policy document this council produces that affects every aspect of people’s lives, now and in the future, yet this council - which claims to be one of the most consulting in the country - are intent on denying residents the chance to have their say on it.
“It is clear that things have changed since it was adopted in 2019 due to Brexit, the pandemic, Ukraine and cost-of-living crises.
“This is simply irresponsible - the plan needs to be subject to public scrutiny in light of these factors and the clearly expressed public concerns about the existing plan.”
The 335-page local plan identified 28,840 jobs, 21,546 new homes, and a ‘vibrant and attractive town centre’ in 2019.
Coun James Higginbottom, cabinet spokesperson for environment and highways, slammed the amendment - claiming the Lib Dems are ‘naive’ and ‘headline-chasing’.
He claims that any amendments to the original document would take up to five years to conclude, and said the current plans represent a ‘bedrock of security’.
He added: “Jobs and houses - that’s what every single young person growing up in Barnsley deserves.
“A job and a home represent the bedrock of security.
“I do not believe that pushing this council down the path of a full local plan update is the right course of action.
“An update that would take up to five years to conclude.
“A process that still needs to be signed off by the inspector and ultimately by a Conservative Secretary of State.
“Michael Gove, that is, who just three weeks ago recommitted to the 300,000-per-year house-building target.
“And, above all, that would mean open season for every developer and land manager to come for more and more sites just as we’d risk throwing away our strongest safeguard against them.”