Blow for builders and landowners as first Calderdale Garden Suburb Planning Application declared invalid

In a surprising and dramatic turn of events, the first planning application for the Thornhills Garden Suburb, part of Calderdale Council’s ambitious and controversial Local Plan, was declared invalid on 24 April 2024. The contentious Local Plan has faced significant public opposition, protracted public hearings and even an unsuccessful High Court challenge.

In a setback for builders and landowners eager to cash in on the multi-million-pound garden suburb project, procedural oversights have rendered the first planning application void, calling into question the council’s handling of the process.

The first phase of nearly 2,000 dwellings proposed 308 new homes and over 600 car-parking spaces, promising a self-contained community supposedly with a strong emphasis on sustainability. However, the project has been marred by controversy from the start, with residents, the countryside charity CPRE West Yorkshire, Calderdale Friends of the Earth, community, and environmental groups voicing strong objections over the loss of green space, air pollution, potential ecological damage, and increased traffic congestion, reflecting the community’s deep concerns.

**Critical Oversight Uncovered**

The planning application’s invalidation stems from a significant oversight. Critical documents were found to be missing from the initial application, a discovery made by a local resident who raised the question with the developer and Calderdale Council. The application was rushed out just two days before the High Court hearing (which was held on 26 April) into the Local Plan, and the errors were discovered when the resident asked if critical documents were missing or incorrectly titled.

Calderdale’s risky financial gamble

Calderdale Council is borrowing over £50 million to support the South-East Calderdale Garden Suburb development; previous claims that scheme preparations were well-advanced now appear increasingly questionable considering the planning application’s invalidation. Critics have previously argued that the council is playing a high-stakes game with public money, gambling on a project already fraught with public opposition, and now procedural errors.

Although the land promoter’s agent responded quickly, Calderdale Council did not respond directly to the enquiry; however, within four hours, the application vanished from public view and is still offline. Contacted recently by a local resident, Calderdale Council simply explained that ‘Application 24/00251/FUL is currently invalid’. The consultation process, which was expected to run for just 21 days, is now suspended. The council explained that ‘the consultation process will now commence when the application is valid, and all the documents are available to view’.

“It’s deeply concerning that such a significant oversight could occur on Calderdale’s supposedly flagship project,” said Clifton Neighbourhood Forum Chair Nigel Holden. “This development has been contentious from the outset, and to discover that the first planning application was incorrectly posted by the council for consultation only adds to the community’s frustration and mistrust. This incident exemplifies an issue of oversight within the council and questions the ability to deliver on grand promises.”