Thursday, 4 March 2021

Andrew Cooper - Green Party Candidate for West Yorkshire Mayor - Responses to FOE 10 Point Plan

 

  1. Ensuring all infrastructure plans, programmes and investment decisions – including COVID-19 recovery plans – are in line with what’s needed to address the climate and ecological emergency, and in line with the city region’s carbon budget and carbon reduction pathway.

 Yes of course I agree that all plans, programmes and investment should be in line with the city regions carbon budget. In my role as a member of West Yorkshire Combined Authority’s Green Economy Panel I have already challenged the Carbon Impacts Assessment tool being developed to measure the emissions resulting from WYCAs investment decisions. I have asked that the Assessment tool is comprehensive in measuring emissions. It must measure not just the impacts of the scheme itself but also emissions facilitated by the investment. A good example would be investment in public transport links to Leeds Bradford Airport. I would regard that as a highly questionable investment by WYCA. We have also got to be wary of the use of dubious carbon offsetting  such as tree planting to mitigate carbon impacts. We don’t have enough land to robustly mitigate the impacts of all negative carbon expanding projects. If  schemes come before the Combined Authority that clearly have a negative impact on the Carbon Budget I will simply oppose it. 

  1. Ensuring those impacted most by climate breakdown and nature loss are heard and centre-stage in decision-making.

 This is a local, regional and a global issue. Climate breakdown and nature loss affects people now in our own localities as development projects are favoured on redesignated greenbelt and greenfield sites. Tree loss is blighting many communities and diminishing their quality of life. More areas are becoming subject to flooding due to climate change and the practice of building on flood plains. I would set up a process where communities could alert the West Yorkshire Mayor when their localities were threatened by climate breakdown and nature loss so they could influence decisions and investments to protect and enhance their environments. 

We also need a global perspective on loss and damage and a meaningful dialogue with the global south is important. I would challenge Government to ensure we are recognising loss and damage in our response to climate change.  I would seek dialogue with representatives from the global south through my links with the international organisation ICLEI (Local Governments for Sustainability). 

  1. Protecting workers and communities through a just transition from a fossil fuel-dependent economy to a low-carbon, nature-rich, circular economy, including delivering over 42,000 new jobs. 

The groundbreaking ‘One Million Green Jobs’ proposal by the Campaign against Climate Change showed us how addressing the climate crisis will deliver meaningful, worthwhile and rewarding jobs. There is a lot to do and the amount of retrofit work needed to buildings in West Yorkshire could easily generate 42,000 jobs. The opportunity is so much greater though, improving our public transport and active travel networks, enhancing biodiversity in communities, tree planting, establishing nature based solutions to heavy rainfall events. The role of the Mayor is to ensure investment is directed to deliver those jobs but also to provide the training and skills needed. There are things we are going to have to stop doing e.g. building new roads, widening roads, airport expansion so it is vital that we replace jobs from sectors that are incompatible with a stable climate with ones that are. There is more than enough to do. 

  1. Introducing policies and measures that ensure new development is net zero carbon and existing homes are brought up to high energy-standards and addressing fuel poverty. 

One of the flagship policies in my bid for the West Yorkshire Mayoralty is the Green Building Fund where I will seek to ensure that all public sector procured or influenced projects are built to the Passivhaus Standard or equivalent. I will establish a fund that will support an uplift in expected capital costs by 5% to cover the expected additional costs of building to that standard. I have proposed such a policy on Kirklees Council for several years but have met opposition from the Labour administration who have exaggerated the capital cost uplift by wrongly referencing the costs of one off projects to seek to justify their opposition. 

I have a strong record on initiating projects to retrofit homes and initiated the UKs first free insulation scheme, the award winning, Kirklees Warm Zone in 2007. There are strong plans being developed by WYCA looking at the challenge of retrofitting existing buildings. What is lacking is a convincing offer to householders to invest in whole house solutions to reduce their emissions. I will ensure funds are available for a Green New Deal Demonstrator Project that will be used to show Government the value of HS2 levels of investment in large scale retrofit projects. It will demonstrate positive health outcomes of living in warm homes, alleviation of fuel poverty, putting more money back in the pockets of the community and out of the pockets of the big energy companies. I have a strong record in addressing fuel poverty in my previous career as an Energy Efficiency Advice Centre Manager and as a Trustee of the fuel poverty charity, National Energy Action for 6 years. 

  1. At least doubling public transport use, cycling and walking within the next 10 years, to cut emissions and ensure everyone can breathe clean air.

 Getting people out of cars and into/onto cleaner forms of transport needs a compelling offer that is cheaper and more convenient than the car. The best example I have seen is in Tallinn the capital city of Estonia where public transport is free to everyone. Ideally that is what I would want to see in West Yorkshire but ensuring we at least have the same powers over public transport that the Mayor of London has would be a great start. That would require a specific ask of government and extending the powers of the West Yorkshire Mayor. That is what I will seek. In the meantime, I would seek to invest more in public transport and much less in building new roads and widening roads. 

Supporting active travel is something that I would want to see a huge expansion of. The West Yorkshire Carbon Pathways report indicates the need to expand cycling by 8000% but at present travel for cyclists is often dangerous so we need to invest more in dedicated and protected cycle lanes so we can expand and democratise cycling. I would also want to support the expansion of e-bikes and would seek financial mechanisms to make the purchase and rental of e-bikes more accessible to more people. I would also want to support projects like the Queensbury tunnel to give more and safer options for cyclists.

 Ultimately most of us are pedestrians and provision for them is often lacking. I would ensure that pedestrians were considered in all appropriate investment decisions. I was responsible for removing all signs in the ward I represent with just the words ‘Public Footpath’ on them and had them replaced with Public Footpath signs that say where they are going to and the distance. I am enthusiastic about the Slow Ways initiative and would like West Yorkshire to a national leader in this. 

  1. Powering the city region with clean, renewable energy, reaping the economic and job opportunities that this brings. 

We have to start planning for clean energy production by reducing the demand for energy through efficiency measures. This has to be at the top of our plans as it gives us more choices, more cost effectively than a simple predict and provide approach. 

I would want to see the return of Solar PV and other renewable technologies as mass market options for the majority of householders during my first term as West Yorkshire Mayor. I would establish a revolving loan fund enabling householders to install renewable technology in their home by accessing a preferential loan based on a second charge on the value of a property. This would effectively mean no upfront costs to the household and the loan being paid back to the fund upon sale of the property. This is based on the Kirklees RE-Charge scheme I initiated in Kirklees which was the winner at the British Renewable Energy awards in 2008. With the Mayor being unable to reintroduce a feed in tarrif this is the next best option to kick start the household renewable sector. Beyond households I would seek to establish Mayoral Development Areas in conjunction with local Councils to build solar farms and wind farms. I would also seek a relaxation on the constraints on wind development in local planning. 

  1. Greening the city-region by increasing tree cover, protecting nature, and eliminating green-space deprivation. 

I am an enthusiast for promoting tree planting and have initiated a small scale tree planting project in my role as a Kirkburton Parish Councillor. The 1000 fruit tree project engaged communities across the Kirkburton Parish in planting fruit trees in their own community and was taken up by village associations and schools. There are great opportunities to integrate tree planting programmes with wider climate education and engagement with young people. Ensuring tree cover is included as an integral part of any urban regeneration schemes will be a stipulation and condition of Mayoral funding. 

I have a proven track record of promoting tree planting projects and in 2019 proposed a 150,000 tree planting project over Kirklees which unfortunately was not accepted by the Labour administration. I will ensure that any Mayoral Development Area that may be designated is not on redesignated greenbelt on greenfield land. The focus will be on the regeneration of brownfield land. 

I am shocked that WYCA funded schemes like the widening of the A629 at Edgerton in Huddersfeild is going to see 126 mature trees removed. Schemes such as this I would simply not support. 

I am keen that biodiversity gain is achieved for all developments we make and that the ecological crisis we face is addressed as well as the climate crisis by protecting habitats and creating new ones. 

  1. Becoming a zero-waste city-region by 2030 without relying on landfill or incineration, to reduce pressures on nature from resource extraction and pollution.

 Incineration is demonstrably a disincentive to a circular economy and recycling. Council waste contracts are beyond the powers of the Mayor though we can insist in any contractual arrangements we make that proper consideration is given to waste minimisation, recycling and reuse of materials. I would seek out the very best Local Authorities on recycling and waste management, such as Stroud District and convene a workshop of all West Yorkshire Councils to promote best practice.

 I would ensure that the very likely conflict between recycling and incineration of recyclables is highlighted and that Combined Authority funds do not support the incineration of recyclables. 

  1. Calling on the local government pension scheme to divest from fossil fuels, to stop profiting from environmental harm. 

I have been calling on Labour Councillor representatives on the West Yorkshire Pension Fund Investment Panel to divest from fossil fuels for many years but have met resistance. I have worked with divestment campaigners and will continue to do so. Apart from the environmental reasons to divest there is also the very real possibility that they could become stranded assets lacking any significant value. So there are good financial reasons to divest from fossil fuels as well. As West Yorkshire Mayor I would give my wholehearted backing for the WYPF divesting fully from fossil fuel investments. 

  1. Opposing the unsustainable growth plans for Leeds Bradford Airport and joining with Metro Mayors across the country to ensure regional airports keep within carbon budgets. 

I watched hours of the Leeds City Council Planning Committee when sadly they decided to pass Leeds Bradford Airport Expansion Plans. I am pleased that some Cllrs on the Leeds Planning Committee including my Green colleague Cllr David Blackburn voted against expansion but sadly they were not in the majority. I have raised the issue at Kirklees Council meetings trying in vain to get the Leadership of the council to come out against the proposals.  As West Yorkshire Mayor I will not back any proposals that support Leeds Bradford Airport expansion and I am happy to try and make expansion of Regional Airports an issue on all Metro Mayors agendas

 

Sunday, 14 February 2021

Covid 19 - One year on - Prescient thoughts from the archive!

 On the 22 February last year I asked for consideration of the coronavirus to be added for discussion to Kirklees Council's Leading Members meeting.

At this time there were a total of 13 confirmed cases in the UK. 4 of which had come from people disembarking on a cruise ship. It was only 3 weeks after the first 2 cases were discovered and quickly isolated in York. The first clusters of cases had started appearing in Northern Italy and I got a really bad feeling about its ability to travel so far so fast.

Reading it back the email I sent to the Council's Chief Executive and other Party Leaders seems rather prescient sadly:-

"Are we developing/have a plan for a possible serious outbreak in Kirklees/West Yorkshire?

 A few thoughts off the top of my head

 Addressing and limiting fear has to be a top priority as well as mythbusting.

 A Public Information campaign on the reality of the Coronavirus has to be an essential - How it's transmitted. How dangerous is it actually compared with other diseases. What precautions get the balance right between  being effective/proportionate/limiting fear.

 We need to appreciate how long precautions against a pandemic may last. A month? a year? Will Huddersfield, Leeds or Sheffield or anywhere end up in lockdown with limited public transport/ check points and people being told not to leave their homes for weeks at a time. Is it possible for the UK to take China style measures given our different cultures and expectations regarding authority.

 What guidance have we received regarding Local Authority response to a Coronavirus outbreak and are funds are being made available for additional demands on social care and other services

 Getting more staff to work from home is obviously something to explore as well as video conferencing even for people working in the same building perhaps.

 Huddersfield is a University town with a large student populations. We need to ensure that they and particularly the chinese community do not become a target for racist attacks on the back of Corona outbreak. We also need to coordinate with University authorities to ensure our actions are coordinated and complementary.

 Setting up the equivalent of a local COBRA committee to strengthen a multi agency response would be a good idea and with guidance to do this formulated jointly by LGA and the appropriate Govt departments.

 Engaging the power of the community to look out for vulnerable people and to disseminate information will be a key task for us to extend our reach.

 Do we need a regional/sub regional approach to this potential problem?"

That was on 22nd of February. A week later the first Covid infection for someone who had not come from abroad was detected. A week after that the first death in the UK was announced. The following week 250,000 attended the Cheltenham Festival and 52,000 attended the Liverpool V Athetico Madrid match with 5000 Spanish spectators. By the 23rd of March we entered the first national lockdown. 

My main reflection is that National Government acted far too slowly and that cost lives, thousands of them. At some point they must be held to account for what they did and didn't do. If they are allowed to portray the vaccine roll out as some form of victory then democracy will have failed us again. The seriousness of this crisis required an all Party approach and not a partisan one. The Conservatives should have sought talents from all parties to come together to address the crisis and sadly it never did. Coming from a Party that must make best use of its often limited influence I am annoyed beyond words when politicians in power waste their opportunities to act. That is as true of the Conservative Government in Westminster as it is of Labour Administration in Kirklees.


Wednesday, 10 February 2021

Speech to the West Yorkshire Growth and Economic Development Conference - 10/2/21


 I’ve been a Kirklees Councillor for 22 years, elected and re-elected for the Green Party 6 times. I’m the Green Party’s National Energy Spokesperson and I represent the Newsome Ward in Huddersfield which in many ways it is a microcosm of West Yorkshire. It has large Council estates, some streets with £300’000 pound houses, and some large asian communities.

 I’ve worked in Energy Efficiency and Renewables sector for 17 years. Project managed insulation and heating schemes. I have worked in the public sector and the private sector and used to work as lobbyist for the Renewable Energy Industry where I was ignored by some very important people.

 During many of my years as a Councillor I have learnt how political power can make positive change happen. For many years the Council lacked a majority, and to get budgets passed and leaders of the Council elected the largest party, whichever one it happened to be at the time, needed the support of just a few Councillors from another political group to achieve that. The Green Group was more than happy to help and as a result Kirklees had the UK’s first universally free insulation scheme, a renewable energy fund that installed solar panels on many council buildings, a solar scheme for householders with no upfront costs and schools constructed to very high energy specifications. Kirklees now has a majority party in control and is less innovative, risk averse, officer lead and managerial. My own politics aside it is a real shame and a waste of political power. For me the whole point of my political journey has been to make change happen and that is why I am standing to be West Yorkshire’s first Mayor.

 So enough about me what about the policies I will champion as West Yorkshire Mayor.

 The Green Bullding Fund that I propose aims to mainstream quality assured high energy standards in public sector building and social housing projects.

 4 years ago I chaired an All Party Group on Kirklees Council looking at the Passivhaus standard. A quality assured means of construction that produces buildings with low energy demand,  low carbon emissions and high energy efficiency standards. These are airtight properties with mechanical heat recovery ventilation.

 We looked at costs and gathered evidence from the Passivhaus Trust, and leading pioneering councils like Norwich City Council and Exeter City Council where they have mainstreamed Passivhaus on public sector projects. Once backed by a good supply of work and a policy that gives the construction sector the confidence to invest in skills, construction costs are not that much higher than building to current building regulation standards. The Passivhaus Trust reckons additional building cost are somewhere between 4-8% but that cost is soon recovered in saved energy costs. Some of the most powerful evidence we took was talking to people who lived in passivhaus properties and also seeing passive houses being constructed.

This is where policy can make a difference. So the conclusion of the All Party Passivhaus Group 4 years ago was to recommend to the Kirkees Labour Cabinet that we specify the Passivhaus Standard or equivalent in all public funded projects or as a condition of sale on the sale of council land for development.

 Sadly the Kirklees Cabinet has ignored the report and sadly when challenged uses evidence on costs derived from one off demonstration projects which by their nature can cost an additional 30% or more.

 So my proposal as West Yorkshire Mayor is to establish a Green Building Fund to cover up to 5% on top of the usual capital cost of the development to ensure that all public sector projects are constructed to the Passivhaus standard or an equivalent standard that achieves the same outcomes. The fund would stay at 5% for the first 5 years and then the percentage would decrease gradually as skills and familiarity with the standard help construction costs come down. This would not only cut emissions but put thousands of pounds back in the pockets of householders in saved energy bills, with money generally going back into the local economy.

 Won’t the Government’s future homes standard do the same job in reducing energy costs and carbon emissions? Well probably not . Research has shown that there is a substantial performance gap on supposedly green homes where they use far more energy than predicted. The quality assured approach to Passivhaus Construction ensures it does pretty much what it says on the tin and energy demand remains very low with 70-90% reductions in fuel bills typically being reported.

 We also want to tackle the need to retrofit existing properties to reduce their emissions with some substantial demonstration programmes that will aim to influence the significant investment needed from national Government, who have so far avoided a long term strategy to tackle the emissions of existing buildings. This is where the Mayor can make a real difference by being a pathfinder and policy innovator leading the way forward for national governments.

 The education and skills responsibility of the Mayor should be harnessed to ensure we have the architects, suppliers and builders to deliver the Green Building Fund, renovation of existing houses and to ensure that we have the skills to address challenges we know are coming such as the move from gas boilers to air sourced heat pumps which is a significant challenge in itself.

 I’m also a strong supporter of social rented housing, but they have been poorly served by successive governments of all political hues, with an ever diminishing council housing stock due to the wrong headed, right to buy policy. Social housing is a social good, an alternative to ownership, more secure than private rental and ensures there is an alternative to both. We need a strong and growing social housing sector to create not just the poverty housing of last resort but a viable option for people who can’t get on the housing ladder. With enough support and rising numbers of council housing it would be an essential check on rising house prices. The power I would seek from Government is the right for Councils in West Yorkshire to suspend the right to buy to ensure the business plans for investment in new Council housing stacked up and there would no longer by a hole in the financial case for investment.

 The role of West Yorkshire Mayor should not just be a souped up Council Leader or a MP with a bigger constituency. It has to be something different, It has got to be about generating real change, providing direction for the region and providing the policies that we need to deliver a sustainable future.

Friday, 5 February 2021

Greens propose 6 month rent holiday for Kirklees hospitality businesses


The Kirklees Green Party Group have proposed an amendment to Kirklees Council’s 2021/22 budget to tackle the economic threats from the Corona virus crisis and climate change.

 Following on from the successful 3 month rent holiday Cllr Andrew Cooper proposed for Kirklees hospitality businesses last year, the Green are now proposing a 6 month rent free period for cafés, coffee shops, pubs, restaurants and clubs.

 Cllr Cooper said,

 “it is vital for the vibrancy of our town centres that the hospitality industry doesn’t collapse following the long period of restrictions and lockdowns. We have some excellent and welcoming businesses in Huddersfield Town Centre who have lost thousands. If Kirklees really has a commitment to revitalising Huddersfield then protecting the businesses we already have is vital at this time.”

 The Greens have also proposed a Covid Community Recovery Fund

 The £30k Covid recovery fund introduced last year was very welcome and Green Councillors have made good use of this fund.

 Councillor Cooper said,

 “Using this funding we have helped schools with IT equipment prior to the wider scheme introduced by the Council. We have helped community organisations with little access to funds to repair buildings, helped with the provision of food to vulnerable people, helped isolated people keep in touch with friends and relatives using smart technologies. Our budget is pretty much spent but the pandemic and its effects go on hence our call for another round of funding.”

 The Greens have also proposed an initiative to involve local people in the regeneration  of our Town Centres

 “Plans to revitalise our town centres are welcome but we believe the Council is not engaging as well as it could and we are proposing a new board that involves local people and key local organisations in the detail and decision making regarding regeneration proposals. Ideas we would like to see considered by such a body would be a strong emphasis on children’s play in the town centre, drinking water fountains, free wifi, public art and more pedestrianisation”

 The Green Group has also submitted a wide range of initiatives to address climate change and reduce peoples energy bills including a project to construct all new council buildings to a very high energy efficiency standard and also a new project to improve the energy performance of existing homes.



Sunday, 31 January 2021

Keep providing the tablets.

 In November, in a Newsome Ward Partnership Zoom meeting, I was made aware by representatives of local infant and Primary Schools in the Newsome Ward that there was a shortage of laptops/tablets for children in years 2 and below to do home learning. The biggest impact was of course those people on the lowest incomes. Children in these years were not helped on the Government scheme being run by DfE. This looked like an ideal opportunity to use our local Ward budget that we as the 3 Newsome Ward Green Party Councillors controlled. So we asked Council officers to look into the details liaise with Kirklees IT staff and allocate an initial £3000 to the project. Kirklees staff did a great job and allocated the laptops which duly went out tho the pupils who needed them. Emails of thanks came from local Headteachers and we were pleased we had been able to help.

Fast forward to 19th January this year and the next Newsome Ward Partnership meeting and we met again with representatives of local schools who told us how things were going and said they could do with about the same number of laptops again. So we started to see what could be done. In the meantime I had been asked by the Green Party if there were any good examples of positive things Green Councillors had managed to do during the Covid crisis. This looked like a good example so on Thursday I appeared in a Green Party Political broadcast that went out on national TV. There I was in my kitchen over Zoom and I said the words,

"In Kirklees, Green Councillors saw that younger pupils were missing out on vital IT equipment to enable them to learn from home. They weren't being helped by government or council schemes so we stepped in to help using our local budgets."

The next day I get an email from Labour Councillor and Cabinet Member for Education Carole Pattison

"Andrew, I hope you read or have read the briefing that I am putting out to all councillors about the provision of laptops to children in Kirklees Schools. You will note that Kirklees has distributed the 3rd highest number of laptops in the country and that we are providing an extra 1000 plus out of the council’s budget for them, your statement during your broadcast last night was completely at odds with this. If any schools in your ward are in need then please point them in the direction of the Learning Service because we are trying to make sure that all children in Kirklees have equal access to the devices that they need and that none go wanting, again in contradiction to what you implied last night.

 Would you like to withdraw your statement."

I had a number of problems with this email. The briefing  was sent out in the afternoon that very same day and so of course I hadn't read it. Why would I withdraw a statement about some positive action we had taken in November because Labour had just announced a scheme 3 months after the one we did. A cynic might think that Labour's briefing went out as a hasty response to the publicity for our successful scheme and they didn't like the idea of anyone else other than themselves getting recognition for positive action. I also pointed out to Councillor Pattison that Kirklees Headteachers were not all aware of this offer from the Council as only this week we had contact from neighbouring schools asking how they could get funding for laptops like that we have provided in the Newsome Ward. It is all just a bit disappointing really. The most important thing is that children get the support they need and I am pleased that Kirklees is now providing the support that is needed. There was really no need for this petty politicking.

Here's the 'offending' part of our broadcast.



Sunday, 15 November 2020

Green Councillors call on the Secretary of State to Call in Kirklees decision to put a hotel on Castle Hill

 

We the undersigned councillors request that you call in Application 2018/93591 that was passed by Kirklees MBC on the 28th October 2020 and we wish to support the call in by Huddersfield Civic Society.

Castle Hill is a significant landmark of special merit in Kirklees, the whole monument and its surrounds are a scheduled ancient monument sited in the Green Belt.  The site is visible for miles around and is an iconic landmark of national importance and any development here would have a detrimental visual impact. 

We support Historic England’s recognition that this hilltop fort is a rare and important asset of local, regional and national importance.

The majority of the community, who submitted comments were against the proposal and we as councillors instantly had emails and calls from residents questioning how and why the application was approved given the evidence provided.  However, this was not reflected in the verbal submission by the officer and the report, while acknowledging the responses, somehow chose to focus on the few that met the recommendation’s view.  

The Council and  the Strategic Planning Committee (SPC) needs to be impartial when it comes to such highly sensitive applications that will affect the community for decades to come.  This unfortunately didn’t appear to happen with one of the Councillors on the SPC reading from a prepared script (visible on the Teams virtual meeting and another stating that she was speaking for the silent majority who might want a development on Castle Hill.  Where was the evidence for such a statement and what happened to SPC members being impartial when making decisions? 

We believe the granting of the application fails to fulfil the requirements to allow the application to proceed.

This is an application to build a commercial restaurant/café/bar with six guest bedrooms in the middle of Green Belt within the curtilage of the Scheduled Ancient Monument and adjacent to a grade II listed building (Victoria Tower).

We believe the Kirklees planning process was flawed and the evidence fails the test of Green Belt and Heritage protection.

The document that was presented to the SPC (ref. 2018/93591) demonstrated there was clearly no robust evidence to support the approval and opinions given in support of approval of the application were thin and not evidenced.

The same document also demonstrated there was a) significant opposition to the application and b) could not demonstrate how the evidence supported an approval.  

There are a number of concerns we have about the processes and procedures the planning team and Strategic Planning Committee carried out.  

We aware of the Huddersfield Civic Society’s objections and concur with their evaluations.

Our main concerns are as follows:

NPPF Green Belt 

This site is in Green Belt and the benefits proposed by the applicant have not been quantified or proven and as such, claims by the planning department in the Council that ‘very special circumstances’ (NPPF cl 1..) have been met and properly evidenced to make such claims.

The Council planning department are ignoring the Council Local Plan Policy requirements without clear and robust evidence of why such activities can be ignored.  This particularly comes to the fore with Local Plan LP13 and LP16 which require a sequential test of any town centre uses outside of the defined centre boundaries. There was no evidence that such tests had been carried out and this was admitted in the officer’s verbal summary to the SPC.  In SPC Agenda pack of the 28/10/2020 item 9 page 61 paragraph 10.15 confirms that LP13 and LP16 requirements to carry out sequential tests and an impact assessment were not carried out. Again what is the evidence that these requirements were unnecessary?  Given the town centre and rural communities are already suffering economic harm from COVID-19, we can’t understand how such a test, had it been carried out, would have met such a test as to allow a town centre development at the heart of the site.  There are already amenities in the town centre and rural communities offered in the application under-utilized, so how does this outweigh the harm caused in Green Belt.  

The evidence submitted by the applicant was generic with little detail to make judgements against.  The Council report clearly demonstrates that the NPPF conditions for very special circumstances had not been demonstrated and yet the officers highlighted a few selective clauses and statements to reinforce a predetermined recommendation to approve the application of an inappropriate development in the Green Belt.

Paragraph 145 of the NPPF states that the construction of new buildings is inappropriate in the Green Belt, and paragraph 143 states that inappropriate development is, by definition, harmful to the Green Belt and should not be approved except in ‘very special circumstances’. We do not believe that allowing the public limited access to use the toilets within a commercial venture meets this criteria.

Heritage

Historic England as we understand maintain an objection to allowing construction on Castle Hill which will substantially harm a heritage asset of national importance. The size and nature of the proposed development makes clear that servicing heritage visitors is not its primary function.  

In addition to the above issues raised re the Green Belt we would highlight similar serious concerns with regards to NPPF clauses 193, 194 and 196 which we believe have not shown the benefits outweighing the serious harm.

Kirklees Processes and Procedures

We believe that the written report determines that application should be rejected, however, a few statements made were selected to carry more weight than the evidence provides. The recommendation, in our view, flies in the face of the evidence.

The processes and procedures within the planning system appear to be biased towards accepting a recommendation that is not evidenced adequately. For instance, it was stated that this is a new application and yet it is an existing application, which has not been approved in the past and yet, with little additional information (except a new design, with even more impact on the heritage) has now been approved.

Three of the SPC members recognised and stated that there was insufficient evidence to make a planning decision on and yet the recommendation and subsequent vote was to approve the application, without any consideration of the consequences of failure of such a business on the site. To date there has been no business plan submitted that we are aware of.

The reliance on planning conditions being set after approval for such a significant site demonstrates to our minds that the applicant’s documentation has not covered all the bases prior to approval.  Significant issues such as drainage, transport and security issues, that all could have a detrimental effect on the public benefit are being left until after the approval is given and s106 conditions if not robust and fully fulfilled will leave the site in a significantly poor/damaged state.

It would appear that SPC members were coming to the meeting as if the decision had already been made, particularly evidenced with pre-written statements that were read out.

The information verbally summarising the report were heavily biased to the recommendation to the point that consultees views that were not in favour of approval were effectively ignored and a few that appeared favourable were given more weight. 

In conclusion we believe the recommendation to approve this development flies in the face of the evidence or lack thereof and the strong public interest warrant the close examination and inspection of this application.


                                                                    Yours sincerely


 

Cllr. Karen Allison                           Cllr. Andrew Cooper                      Cllr Susan Lee-Richards                                 


Saturday, 15 August 2020

Standing for the nomination as Green Party Candidate for West Yorkshire Mayor

 Councillor Andrew Cooper - Candidate statement

I am a Kirklees Green Party Councillor and have been for the last 21 years. I have been elected and re-elected 6 times. During that time I have gained a wealth of experience as a Cabinet Member, Scrutiny Panel Chair and as a Leader of the Green Party Group. We have held balance of power and so have managed to implement a number of Green Party policies including the UK’s first universally free insulation scheme and what is effectively a ban on Fracking in our Local Plan.

I have lead on the Green Party response to the West Yorkshire Combined Authority Devolution Consultation writing, collating and integrating responses from members. The response highlighted the lack of focus on climate change, the lack of accountability of the proposed Elected Mayor and the threat to local democracy posed by the Mayoral Combined Authority. The full response can be viewed here. https://clrandrewcooper.blogspot.com/2020/07/yorkshire-and-humber-green-party.html

In my Campaign to be the first Green Mayor of West Yorkshire I will focus on Jobs, Homes and Climate Change

Green Jobs

Over 5 years I will seek to generate and influence the creation of 100,000 new Green jobs. In line with the landmark Campaign against Climate Change report. These jobs will be in renewable energy, sustainable construction, retrofit of buildings, establishing new public transport and active travel networks and through promoting rich natural environments in and around our communities.

Green Homes

I will campaign hard to have the ‘right to buy’ Council Housing suspended in West Yorkshire to protect valuable social housing and to help the business case for investment in more Council housing. This will also act as a check on house prices at the lower end on the market.

I will establish a Green Building Fund that all Local Authorities in West Yorkshire can access to support the development of homes and other buildings to the Passivhaus standard. This will reduce carbon emissions, energy bills and fuel poverty.

I will establish a new retrofit fund to improve the energy performance of existing homes, targeting those on the lowest incomes and seeking to draw in matched funding from energy companies and central government.

Tackling Climate Change

One of my first jobs in office would be to boost the ambition of our plan to deliver a Zero Carbon Economy. This would aim to bring the target date for a Zero Carbon Economy forward from 2038 to 2030 in line with the recommendations of the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

I will cease all new road building projects and any project that supports the expansion of Leeds/Bradford Airport.

I will work with green industries on a plan to boost our renewable energy generation capacity across all appropriate technologies and seeking to support community owned and managed renewable energy projects.

A Green Team for West Yorkshire

If elected as Green Party nominee for West Yorkshire Mayor I will invite the second placed Candidate to be the named Deputy mayoral candidate. Normally Labour Mayors simply appoint them after and election.