We all know the drawbacks of the planning system. In areas such as mine, which comes under the jurisdiction of Calderdale Council, we have a local authority that is not only risk-averse when it comes to enforcement, but is driven by the multitude of Government targets around house building to the detriment of everything else. Today I want to highlight the issues around local plans. Calderdale still has not had that signed off and is in the midst of yet another consultation via the planning inspectorate. I want to make it clear that I do not have an issue with the numbers of houses. Whether it is one or 50,000 extra homes, the reality is that we need to build homes. The problem is our infrastructure, and without a robust infrastructure plan to sit alongside a local plan, the local plan is undeliverable.
We all know the issues across our constituencies with failing and stretched infrastructure. On roads, as well as the many pinch points across Calder Valley, we see a single road in and out of the Upper Calder Valley. Whether it is the single lane that we have had to endure for three years while flood defences are built, or whether it is roadworks, not to mention accidents, we have to sit in our cars often for more than an hour just to travel a few miles. On the numerous days throughout the year when the M62 is closed, it does not matter where one lives in the Calder Valley, the roads are like car parks, and that is just the roads.
Our clinical commissioning group has recently announced that five GP surgeries will close because of an inability to recruit GPs to the area. School places are also an issue, particularly in the Lower Calder Valley, where our excellent schools are all over-subscribed. The local authority will say that it has infrastructure improvements within the plan, but its plans do not even touch the sides of the already stretched infrastructure, let alone if a further 15,000 homes are added over the next 15 years.
The final issue that I want to touch on around infrastructure is flooding. The Calder Valley and other parts of Calderdale have just experienced their third 100-year flood in just over seven and a half years. We had 1,187 properties flooded this time. Many of the 650 homes experienced their third flood. Small micro-businesses were flooded, too. There is not one piece of feasibility on flooding on the many dozens of sites in our local plan, and many—in my estimate about 40% of the land parcels—are already flood plains for when it rains. One particular site in Brighouse, earmarked for 200 houses, was six feet under water. Another in Greetland, with 600 homes, was like a waterfall. Finally, I have no confidence in our local authority to amend things at the planning stage.
I have two asks of our fabulous Housing Minister. First, why is there such a bypass of infrastructure requirements within local plans, and why are we allowing that to happen? Secondly, I have much evidence of our local authority ignoring infrastructure requirements for housing plans on flood plains. Now is surely the time to say, “No more building on flood plains or in areas where there is a high flood risk.”