Public speak out in support of Ponderosa plans – public inquiry

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A PROPOSED eco-village near Ponderosa Park has been described as a ‘once in a lifetime opportunity’ for the area.

Howard Cook’s bid to build a retirement community next to his Heckmondwike park – some of which is in green belt – was supported by members of the public at a planning appeal on Thursday.

The public inquiry, which ended for a month-long break on Friday, could result in Kirklees Council’s decision to deny his planning application being overturned by a government inspector.

On Thursday afternoon, after the Guardian went to press, residents, a Heckmondwike councillor, a vicar and a faith group all spoke out in favour of the plans.

Chris Jenkinson, of Dewsbury Moor, told the inquiry the opportunity to bring jobs and investment to the Heckmondwike and Dewsbury Moor areas was one not to be missed.

He said: “This is an opportunity for Dewsbury Moor, but a lot more than that, it is an opportunity for all of us to make a difference in the area.

“Improved health and wellbeing, that seems like a great deal to me, so let’s make thousands of people happy by allowing this development.”

The Rev Kathy Robertson of St John’s Church in Dewsbury Moor, said she believed the development would be of great benefit due to the training and employment opportunities it would bring - not only via the eco-village but also through the Able 2 and Dewsbury Dome projects on the site.

“These organisations work with individuals from 16 to 60 which will benefit those long-term unemployed and those made redundant,” she said.

Karen Batley, assistant manager at Ponderosa’s therapeutic centre, told the inquiry the people at the facility were all ‘one big family’.

She said many of the disabled people that benefited from the centre had been there a long time and would be affected if Ponderosa was forced to close.

“It’s our service users and families that will suffer the most,” she said.

The inquiry also heard from a Dewsbury Moor mum whose son had been led away from crime and the ‘wrong crowd’ after securing work experience with Green Future Building, the not-for profit organisation involved in the Dewsbury Domes project.

Labour deputy leader Coun David Sheard (Heckmondwike) gave his full support to the plans and said development on green belt land was justified in this case.

He said: “I believe the symbiotic relationship with the Able 2 project is a special reason. I see this project as providing jobs and homes.”

Waseem Riaz, of the Kirklees Faith Network, said Mr Cook had given his organisation free office space at Ponderosa for an inter-faith project.

He said the development would improve quality of life for local people and hoped residents would come together to benefit from the eco-village.

The final day of the inquiry will be held on Friday August 10 at Dewsbury Minister. A decision is expected after September.