Carol Bradbury reports from the March meeting of Penistone Town Council

Penistone councillors claimed the town was just seen as a cash cow for Barnsley, with affordable homes being located in other areas, even though they were told Barnsley had agreed that Penistone needed 109 affordable homes.

They said the town needed a mixture of housing, including affordable homes, not just executive houses.

Criticisms also were made that Penistone has to accept 1,400 new houses in the next 20 years with no consultation as to how services are going to cope. Councillors suggested a New Town in the Dearne Valley rather than developing in Penistone.

They were meeting Barnsley planners Matthew Smith and Paula Tweed to hear about the Local Plan, the blueprint for development in the area, now being finalised. They also discussed developing a Neighbourhood Plan for the town but decided to leave a decision until after the May elections.

Paula Tweed explained that the government has decreed that all local authorities should have a Local Plan as a basis for making planning applications. Planning officers have to look at land allocation, site assessments, Green Belt reviews and include transport risks, floods and proximity to services to decide which sites to take forward.

The council then submit their plans to the secretary of state. These are scrutinised by independent inspectors, who will make recommendations before the council adopt them. The final draft will be out for consultation around August and the public will be allowed to meetings.

Penistone already has a community plan but that is now outside the goalposts for planning applications and a Neighbourhood Plan is needed to go into detail on things such as infrastructure. Some councillors were sceptical about this and the costs involved, though grants are available from the government. Oxspring is the only other area in Barnsley which has started a Neighbourhood Plan.

Barnsley council will support Neighbourhood Plans, they were told, but cannot reduce overall development. They will also pay for the obligatory referendum when the scheme is complete.

Matthew Smith said Barnsley received around 1,400 planning applications every year and 1,200 general enquiries. Minor applications take 8 weeks to finalise, major ones 13 weeks.

The four planning officers decide what consultation is needed and decide most applications but one in 10 goes to the planning board. Appeals go to a planning inspector. But the council may incur costs if their refusal is deemed unfair.

Councillors commented that this left major developers with a free hand as the council could not afford the costs of refusing them. They also questioned whether the various departments in Barnsley actually communicated with each other on these matters.

In other discussions:

  • It was suggested two defibrillators be sited, one at the British Legion and one outside the surgery.
  • Replacing the screen at the Paramount will cost £20,000. The committee are looking for grants as the lease runs out in 2019. Customers will soon be able to print their own tickets online.
  • Financial support of £250 was granted to Penistone Cricket Club.
  • The toilets are still waiting for Northern Powergen to sort out the electrics.