Veteran Labour councillor suspended for protest against plans for 1,000 homes in Featherstone

A veteran Labour councillor has been suspended by the party for refusing to back “ridiculous” plans to build 1,000 houses in his ward.
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Featherstone councillor Graham Isherwood was handed the punishment for defying the whip during a vote on Wakefield Council’s new Local Plan.

The plan, which shapes how the district will be developed over the next decade, includes major urban expansion to the south of the town.

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Coun Isherwood voted against the document when it was passed at a full council meeting on January 24.

Councillor Graham IsherwoodCouncillor Graham Isherwood
Councillor Graham Isherwood

A day after the meeting, Coun Isherwood explained his decision to stand up for his community.

He said on Facebook: “Yesterday I fulfilled my pledge and manifesto commitment to the residents of Featherstone ward and voted against the planning inspector’s Local Plan.

“This was the plan that said it was OK to build 1,000 on greenbelt land in Featherstone.

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“I could not support even more traffic being put onto the A645 road which in my opinion is saturated now.

“We have opposed this ridiculous plan from day one and I would like to thank the residents who have supported us in this opposition.

“The fight will go on, when and if this housing plan ever reaches the planning stage.”

Ending the message, Coun Isherwood added: “I await my fate.”

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When contacted, Coun Isherwood confirmed that he had this week been given a two-month suspension, until April 25.

A spokesperson for Labour said: “We can confirm that a councillor has been suspended from Wakefield Labour group.

“All Labour group councillors are aware of our disciplinary guidelines and are aware of any consequences from not abiding by them.

“Suspension is a procedural matter due to breaching Labour group rules.”

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Coun Isherwood has been a councillor since 1987 and chairs the Labour-run local authority’s overview and scrutiny management board.

He was re-elected at last year’s local elections with 73% of votes cast in the ward, the second-highest margin of victory out of 23 seats contested.

Coun Isherwood explained his reasons for voting against the plan in the council chamber last month.

He said: “The first time I spoke against this development was in 1987. My views haven’t changed since then.

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“I have attended every single one of the inspector’s meetings and spoken against (the plan).

“I haven’t changed my mind one little bit.

“I find myself in the difficult situation of attending public meeting, after public meeting, after public meeting and I’ve never had one single person who has said ‘this is a good scheme, you should vote for this’. ”

He added: “I’m not here to make a fuss. I’m just telling you what the people who I represent are telling me.”

Initial proposals included building 1,500 homes in Featherstone but the number was reduced to 1,000 in the final plan.

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Plans to create nine hectares of employment land in the area were also taken out of the document.

After the plan was approved, Matthew Morley, the council’s cabinet member for planning and highways, said: “Without a Local Plan, communities are unprotected from speculative development.

“This means that development still happens but too often in inappropriate locations and without the right infrastructure in place.

“Instead, the plan will enable co-ordinated and sustainable development, unlocking significant investment and supporting the creation of housing and jobs that are needed by the communities in this district.”