TORY Parliamentary hopeful and community campaigner Mark Eastwood has asked the Archbishop of Canterbury to visit a greenfield site threatened by development.
The prospective Parliamentary candidate for Dewsbury, who is also chairman of Chidswell Action Group, has written directly to Justin Welby with an invitation to visit an area of land owned by the Church of England’s Church Commissioners, which has been included in Kirklees Council’s draft Local Plan as a potential site for more than 1,500 houses and 35 hectares of industrial development.
The Church Commissioners manage the Church of England’s extensive investments and control hundreds of thousands of acres across the country.
Mr Eastwood said: “We have been fighting against the Church Commissioners’ proposals for Chidswell since they bought the land nearly a decade ago and have met with their representatives several times, along with members of the clergy, but they only seem interested in their relentless pursuit of maximising profits from sales of the land to help fund their pensions.
“In light of Justin Welby’s recent comments about a so-called ‘crisis of capitalism’, I have written to him on behalf of the local community to call on the Church of England to practice what it preaches and for him to personally intervene in helping us preserve the unspoilt countryside located at Chidswell for future generations to enjoy.”
This is not the first time land at Chidswell has been under threat.
In 2000, the area was put forward by Kirklees Council for open cast mining, which one resident remembers vividly.
Betty Jaggar, 78, said: “Having lived here since 1965, I remember when local residents fought successfully to overturn proposals to allocate the Chidswell site for open cast, despite the best efforts of RJB Mining at the time.
“We’ve defeated big business before and with a bit of help we can beat them again.
“The footpaths and ancient woodland have been used by local residents, children and ramblers for generations and it would be heart-breaking to see it destroyed now.
“I hope the Archbishop accepts the invitation to visit Chidswell and see for himself what is at stake should the Church Commissioners decide to sell the land on to developers.”
Allocated sites within the Local Plan can only go ahead if the landowner is willing to allow development.
Should the Church agree to preserve the land, a number of sites which were initially rejected by Kirklees Council within the early stages of the draft Local Plan would have to be re-examined.
An independent planning inspector is yet to publish her final report on whether Kirklees’ draft Local Plan can go ahead in its current form.