AN AMBITIOUS plan to link the controversial 4,000-home Dewsbury Riverside development to the town centre has been proposed.
A 2km series of pedestrian and cycle paths to enable residents to safely commute to and from Dewsbury, without having to use busy local roads, could stop the Riverside scheme from becoming isolated before work has even begun, claims community campaigner Bruce Bird.
The development will effectively create a new small town, including schools and shops, on a 160-hectare site to the south of Ravensthorpe and south east of Mirfield.
But there are fears that with no direct off-road routes in place to Dewsbury town centre, Dewsbury Riverside could become segregated from surrounding communities.
According to developers’ plans, it appears that pedestrians, cyclists and traffic will simply be forced onto Forge Lane and the already-congested A644 Huddersfield Road.
Plans for ‘green corridors’ of paths running through areas adjacent to the River Calder have now been shown to local councillors, but as yet no official proposal has been submitted to Kirklees officials. Many of the routes already exist – they simply need linking together.
The driving force behind the plan, Bruce Bird of the Dewsbury Partnership group, says quickly implementing the proposal could be key.
“It’s important to implement this at the start of planning so people don’t become entrenched,” he said.
“The Dewsbury Riverside development has no direct connection to the riverside and without a plan in place at the development stage, is more likely to develop into an isolated satellite better described as Dewsbury South than as an integral part of the town.
“Here is a piece of community vision. The thing we really want to see is sustainable transport above vehicle transport. This is an opportunity to implement it.”
The Riverside project is part of Kirklees Council’s Local Plan, which contains proposals to build 30,000 new homes across the district, with many of the earmarked sites being either green belt or agricultural land.
Although the development is called Dewsbury Riverside, around 500 of the planned new homes will be built over the ward boundary in Mirfield.
Mirfield councillor Martyn Bolt believes that green corridors like the one proposed for Dewsbury Riverside are severely lacking in the district.
“Kirklees are not competing with their neighbours. If you look at the Leeds to Bradford greenway, £29m was spent on that development,” he said.
“Dewsbury Riverside want to convince Kirklees that they shouldn’t have to contribute to highway improvements. One way to do this is to develop these green corridors.”
Coun Bolt added that the cost of constructing a minimum of 800m of new paths to satisfy the plans shouldn’t be seen as a stumbling block.
“One of the key issues we face is improving health – you do that by giving people a safe place to walk and cycle,” he said.
“Money saved on things such as health benefits will return money spent on green corridors 10-fold.”
Mr Bird also downplayed costs of his plan, stating that the maintenance of routes already in place, as well as the creation of new pathways, would be “infinitely cheaper than the housing”.