CRAVEN District Council has agreed to adopt its local plan.

Providing no challenge is made to the High Court by Christmas Eve, December 24, the plan, which has cost more than £1 million and taken more than seven years to prepare, will be used to shape development and policy in Craven, outside the national park, until 2032.

Councillors at Tuesday's extraordinary, full meeting of the council, said while imperfect, the plan should go ahead with 22 voting for it to be adopted and four abstaining.

The meeting also heard from Jill Wilson, of Save our Craven Countryside, who spoke about Hellifield Flashes and called for the council to enforce the restoration of Gallaber Flash, part of the flashes area, and now included as ‘green space’ in the plan.

Some councillors said they were frequently asked by residents when the local plan would be completed and felt all the preparation work had gone on long enough, leaving the area exposed to unwanted development.

Cllr Robert Heseltine, ward member for Skipton, said he thought Skipton had been treated unfairly, but because it was a good plan for Craven as a whole he would not vote against it, but would instead abstain.

The local plan, he said, had cost the council ‘well into the second million pounds’ bracket, and had seen in Skipton a ‘exceptionally rapid rate of housing development’.

Cllr Chris Moorby, ward councillor for Hellifield, said it was unfortunate that the inspector had not agreed with people in the area and made the whole of the flashes in Hellifield a ‘green space’ and pledged to continue to fight to protect the area for residents and the wildlife.

Gallaber Flash, he said, was not a ‘green space’ but more like a ‘bomb crater’.

“I will carry on until I am dead in a ditch to try and protect the flashes and the wildlife. My job with the flashes is not finished yet,” he said.

Cllr Andy Brown, who abstained from the vote, said it was not the plan Craven communities wanted given the choice, and that bad national policies meant unfettered development.

Council leader, Cllr Richard Foster, while acknowledging his Grassington ward was inside the national park, which had its own development plan, said completing the local plan was his proudest achievement as leader of the council.

Cllr David Staveley, chairman of the spatial planning Committee, which has steered the local plan over several years, said its preparation had been a ‘huge achievement’.

“With the large amount of government and European legislation and regulations to be followed, the importance of talking and consulting with communities, industry and statutory bodies, plan preparation is inevitably a lengthy process.”

The local plan, which has been in the preparation stage since at least 2012, when it was known as the Local Plan of Action, sets out how the district will deal with new housing, employment, education provision, and affordable housing. It also covers green space, sporting facilities, air quality, renewable energy and flooding, and calls for 4,600 new homes to be built, or 230 per year of the plan period.

It has been adopted following a number of public consultations and an independent examination by an inspector appointed by the Secretary of State.

The inspector, Matthew Birkinshaw, concluded that subject to a number of recommended main modifications, the plan was sound, legally compliant and was capable for adoption by the council.

Cllr Staveley said: “This plan will guide the development of new homes and new jobs to the most appropriate and sustainable parts of the area over the next 13 years, while protecting our most valuable landscapes, and natural and heritage assets, and retaining the unique character and amenity of our towns and villages.”

Such growth, he said, would look to minimise its impact on climate change, and encourage green travel.

“In response to the challenges of the housing market, new housing developments will look to provide 30 per cent of the units to meet the needs for affordable homes and more generally, the size and type of new homes will better match housing need, and be delivered at an appropriate density to make an efficient use of land.”

New land will be allocated for employment use in Skipton. Settle and in Ingleton to encourage existing business to expand and new firms to locate to the area.

“New land will be allocated in the town centre of Skipton to enhance its vitality and viability, and policies will seek to manage change in all the area’s centres to maintain and enhance their role and function, “ he said.

The improved infrastructure necessary for such development would be secured through ‘planning obligations’ and ‘developer contributions’ and would cover open space, sport and recreation, education, highways and transport, he said.

“The council will be able to use the plan to help secure investment from agencies such as Homes England and the Local Enterprise Partnerships (LEPs) and further its partnership initiatives.”

Process for this version of the local plan began in 2012, with a series of workshops and community engagement events, followed by three formal public consultations on the draft plan, before Full Council approved the Publication Draft Plan in December 2017 and subsequently submitted the plan to the Secretary of State in March 2018.

The plan will now become part of the development plan for the area, including neighbourhood development plans. Planning law requires that applications for planning permission be determined in accordance with the development plan, unless material considerations indicate otherwise.