‘Flagship’ eco plan approved

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PLANS for a retirement community at Ponderosa have been approved.

Owner Howard Cook has been granted planning permission for an eco retirement community, which includes 145 one and two-bed units, a 50-bed nursing home and a community hub with shops and facilities, which he says will create 400 new jobs.

Kirklees Council’s Heavy Woollen planning sub committee agreed the plans last Thursday at Dewsbury Town Hall.

David Dove, who lives in Smithies Lane, welcomed the plans and said they would also create jobs.

But Lisa Drake, from Save Norristhorpe Green Belt campaign group, told councillors they were being ‘held to ransom’ by the developers, who said they were no longer able to maintain Ponderosa’s work with young people with learning difficulties unless the scheme was given the go-ahead.

She said: “Please send a clear message that the manipulation of the planning process will not be tolerated. This scheme is to enable the expansion of Howard Cook’s thriving businesses.”

Objector Robert Speed agreed, saying: “We know Kirklees Council’s Adult Services contributed £400,000 to Ponderosa. It’s hard to see how it’s not financially viable.”

But speaking in support of the plans, Prof John Double, from Upper Batley, said his late brother was a full-time user of Ponderosa and he said Mr Cook had a great philosophy.

He said: “My brother spoke of Ponderosa as someone would of going to the Bahamas. This would be a flagship project for Kirklees.”

Planning consultant David Storrie said: “The application has a whole raft of benefits. Under the current climate, to secure something like this is gold dust.”

Conservatives Coun Khizar Iqbal, Coun Kath Taylor and Coun Christine Smith, and Lib Dem Coun Andrew Pinnock spoke against the plans. Coun Pinnock said he could not see how the scheme was different from an earlier proposal which was turned down.

Labour councillors Cathy Scott, Mohan Sokhal and committee chairman Paul Kane spoke in favour of the development.

Coun Kane said special circumstances allowing green belt land to be given up had been met.

Mr Cook said the result was ‘fabulous’ and would unlock the Dewsbury Domes fish farm project and the Able 2 project for disadvantaged young people.

He said: “Let’s get on and do the job.”

His son Adam said: “This will create 400 jobs. It is an expansion of care for disadvantaged people.”