Blacup homes plan is a step too far

Land under threat at Lower Blacup, Cleckheaton.
Land under threat at Lower Blacup, Cleckheaton.

Losing a historic farm would be a “tragedy” after an appeal was lodged to build 53 homes in Cleckheaton, a councillor has said.

Redrow Homes Limited appealed to the planning inspector after Kirklees Council refused its application to build the development on land next to Ashbourne Drive and Lower Blacup Farm in April.

Plans to build on the grade II-listed farm were submitted in 2012, but were met by fierce opposition from residents and councillors.

The original application was for 54 homes, but on appeal it was reduced to 53 houses.

Councillors and residents joined forces to oppose the plans at an appeal hearing at the Whitcliffe Hotel, in Cleckheaton, on Tuesday.

Coun Andrew Pinnock (Lib Dem, Cleckheaton) said people were angry the site was chosen over brownfield sites which needed to be developed.

He said: “Residents across Cleckheaton value this open hillside, including one of the oldest buildings in the area, with links to Cleckheaton’s historic past and the Quakers and the Luddites.”

Coun Kath Pinnock (Lib Dem, Cleckheaton) added: “Residents do feel Redrow is behaving in a way which is predatory.

“It would be a tragedy to lose the farm. Let’s make these decisions with local people and their support.”

Spen Valley Civic Society member Colin Berry criticised the plan claiming it failed to take into account other developments in the area.

Planning permission has already been granted for 217 homes in Westgate, 34 houses in Bradford Road and 52 homes in Hightown.

Mr Berry said: “There are three developments within half a mile, which could increase population by 1,000 people.

“There is around 18,000 people now – that’s a massive increase. The local infrastructure faces significant challenges to meet these demands.

“There are no primary school places available and no school has the capacity to expand.”

Coun John Lawson (Lib Dem, Cleckheaton) claimed he was under no illusions more housing was needed across the district, but insisted locals should have a say.

He said: “We are doing our bit in Cleckheaton as we have had around 1,000 new homes in the last 10 years and we have welcomed them.

“But people have had no say in these plans and that is not right.”

Despite the objections, developer Redrow criticised the council’s Local Development Framework (LDF) plans and said there was a “huge undersupply” of housing land in Kirklees.

Lower Blacup Farm is classed as greenfield land, safeguarded as Provisional Open Land, which is a policy safeguarding sites from development until a local plan review has been undertaken.

The site was identified as POL in the council’s Unitary Development Plan (UDP), which was adopted in 1999.

The UDP states when a new land use plan for Kirklees is agreed, POL sites will be considered for housing but it is not a foregone conclusion.

But planning consultant Richard Sagar criticised the UDP claiming it did not recognise today’s housing needs.

He also said the council’s failure to agree on the LDF had left POL sites vulnerable.

Mr Sagar said: “The site was identified as being capable of being developed and the plan should have been reviewed every five years.

“The council haven’t done anything in the last 14 years and they have not had a plan.”

Planning consultant Jonathan Dunbavin claimed the council would be placed under increasing pressure to use green belt land, should they not use POL sites.

He also said the 300 homes, which are to be built in Cleckheaton, were a “drop in the ocean” to the amount of housing needed across the district.

Mr Sagar claimed Kirklees Council would need to allocate land for new homes 11,138 in the next five years.

Kirklees Council withdrew from giving evidence in opposition to Redrow’s appeal at the hearing.

Planning inspector Clive Hughes met with representatives from Redrow and Kirklees Council for a site visit on Wednesday morning.

The future of Lower Blacup Farm is expected to be decided within six weeks.