Ed Lines

THE lyric for the classic Beatles song A Day in the Life on the Sgt Pepper’s album went … “Four thousand holes in Blackburn Lancashire…”

The Kirklees Council version, circa 2015, runs … “Four thousand homes in green belt Dewsbury…” as in the new town they intend building on fields between Thornhill Lees and Mirfield.

How big exactly is 4,000 homes? (I like the name Shariatown by the way). Put it like this. In all of Savile Town and Thornhill Lees right now there are only 3,200 residences and 2,700 in Ravensthorpe.

Still, with everyone cuddled up that cosily they’ll save a fortune on heating bills. And let’s hope everyone gets along well, because they won’t be travelling anywhere in a hurry.

Back in 1967 John Lennon’s lyric was musing on the number of potholes on Blackburn’s roads. In 2015 you couldn’t count the potholes on Huddersfield Road in Ravensthorpe without either being run over, or more likely, having to peer beneath nose-to-tail vehicles from 8am to 6pm.

In fact forget being run over, cars can rarely get up enough speed through there to do any damage. You’d be more likely to keel over from the choking exhaust fumes.

At the time Lennon started penning his masterpieces I lived in Ravy, on Sackville Street, and my little asthmatic lungs were so choked by the smog and pollution of the mills and the coal burning terraced chimneys, that our GP despatched the family to the wonderful clean air at the top of Thornhill.

Ravensthorpe’s outside lavvies are long gone, as are the noxious chimneys, but Kirklees seems intent on turning the district into one big sweathouse.

Population density across Kirklees is 10.5 people per hectare (in ‘overcrowded’ England it’s only 4.1). Savile Town and Thornhill Lees? Already it’s 32. And they’re going to more than double it?

A fortnight ago, Kirklees Council’s mutton-brained Labour Cabinet published its masterplan for meeting government targets on new homes, tripling the previously rejected number for Chidswell – that’ll teach those bolshie NIMBYs! – and having a right laugh with their 4,000-house Muslim new town.

I was going to offer (yet again) to bare my backside on the town hall steps if these daft plans ever come to pass, but by the time and if ever they do, I’ll probably be wearing incontinence pants, slavering into my white beard and be unable to dress myself anyway.

You see, I can’t imagine these plans are actually meant to come to fruition – not something like Shariatown at least. It’s just a way of keeping Whitehall quiet for a while.

I noticed that the plan said there would be improvements to Ravensthorpe railway station. A new litter bin? Extra bench? I wonder, have councillors actually tried that service at rush hour?

Years ago, there was talk of building a bypass through that area from the M1 to the M62. It would have made a nice shortcut for HGV drivers but done nothing to address the chronic infrastructure problems in our valley. Problems which are already at crisis point.

Short of turning Huddersfield Road into a double-decker highway, I haven’t the faintest what could be done. But I do know that choking the Calder valley with an entire new town won’t help.

How on earth is an ambulance going to get from there to Pinderfields? They do heart transplants in less time than it would take to get a heart attack victim out of there. So while there are no details on new schools and GP surgeries, I hope at least they’re building a helipad for the Air Ambulance.

It’s almost a mickey-take that as Kirklees plans 30,000 new homes across the district, the Mid Yorks NHS Trust is busy plotting the closure of Dewsbury District Hospital. But that’s the thing with politicians and bureaucrats – they don’t ‘do’ joined-up thinking.

Meanwhile, back in the real world of Dewsbury town centre (which this plan is supposed to ‘regenerate’) the only growth industry is writing parking tickets, and driving more and more people away.

I’ve been looking at commercial property this week and briefly considered one Dewsbury building until I asked the business rates – £6,500 a year. And you don’t even get a bin emptied for that, just Kirklees’s parking Nazis, trying to make sure you don’t get any custom anyway.

Thanks, but no thanks.

PS: In trying to sell this madness, Coun Peter McBride said the regeneration of Pioneer House showed Kirklees’s commitment to Dewsbury.

Well, true enough, as completely empty buildings go, it is very handsome. It’s just a shame that no one will touch it – or Dewsbury town centre – with a bargepole. Sometimes, Councillor Pete, keeping your gob shut and just looking stupid is better than opening it and confirming the fact.

PPS: Just a thought re the ‘housing crisis’. Have you seen how many empty flats there are in Dewsbury town centre and along Bradford Road? Where are all of these poor souls without a roof over their head?

WE CAN’T have had too many local blokes who have played in a Rugby Union World Cup. Sadly for Dewsbury Moor ARLFC and Heckmondwike Grammar School lad Sam Burgess, it all ended in tears when England crashed out barely a fortnight after it began.

The national press went OTT when Sam, indisputably the best League player in the world, signed at Union. It was only a matter of time before he inevitably became the scapegoat for the failings of, basically, a lousy team.

A couple of things Sam. Firstly, they won’t let up now. It will probably be your fault if it rains during the final between New Zealand and Australia. And secondly, the Leeds Rhinos-Wigan Grand Final at Old Trafford was sensational. Come home Sam, we still love you.

DO YOU think anyone will every ‘pay’ for the £3 million that Tory ministers handed over to Camila Batmanjelly and her Kids Company outfit, hours before she put it into receivership? 

I doubt it. Certainly not within the system and it’s highly unlikely that Batmanjelly or her co-conspirator Alan Yentob will be held accountable, despite the fact that concerns were raised as far back as 2002. The very people who should be responsible for enforcing the rules are the same ones who will ultimately whitewash the whole rancid lot. The Big Lottery Fund is a prime example of an organisation covering up its own lavish funding of potential fraudsters.

I HAD to chuckle at the bleating-heart speech of Kirklees councillor Graham Turner last week, announcing to the world that the authority will open its humanitarian arms to help solve the Syrian refugee crisis. 

Kirklees is initially housing two whole families.

Crikey, don’t overdo it, will you Graham? They get four families to a house in some parts of Ravensthorpe. Forty or 50 men to a terrace if they fancy a job at Kozee Sleep. Our new Syrian guests will be rattling round the place.

I liked this quote of Coun Turner’s. “I am sure they will need intensive support from a range of services. They may have suffered trauma or survived torture and violence.”

If there’s only a handful of them they might suffer from loneliness, but what they will actually need Graham is a roof, food, beds, a warm coat and a Syrian-English dictionary. And as much as they may have suffered trauma, they may well not.

Most of the well-heeled young men I see on the news look like anything but victims. Au contraire, to borrow the French vernacular.

Still, it seems Kirklees Council has learned its lesson from the days when it was virtually putting on its own buses to ship itinerant, middle Eastern asylum seekers into the district, based not on any humanitarian morality, but on pocketing the Government cash that came with them.

They were seemingly all single men too, with a slap-my-thigh coincidence. Coun Turner may not be familiar with the time that Kirklees was idiotically accommodating Shia refugees in the heart of Sunni neighbourhoods and the open warfare that ensued.

I doubt that he’s met Lee Massey, or Danny and Darren Lee, all of whom are lucky to be alive after being ambushed by a mob of weapon-wielding Iraqi Kurds, only one of whom was ever brought to justice. They were Kirklees guests too, councillor.

So excuse me if I appear pleasantly underwhelmed by the council’s hospitality. You see we’ve been here before. And some people are still bearing the scars.

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