COUNCILLORS have been forced to back a controversial housing scheme which could see more than 200 homes built on green belt land adjacent to Dewsbury Ramsâ€™ Tetleyâ€™s Stadium.
Kirklees deputy leader David Sheard claims officials had no option but to support the masterplan during Tuesdayâ€™s cabinet meeting.
Coun Sheard (Lab, Heckmondwike) says a decision taken while the council was under Conservative control, back in 2008, meant they must agree or else face claims for compensation.
â€œThis is green belt land but we had no choice because of the decision taken in 2008,â€ he said.
â€œBut it has been made clear to us that if we failed to agree the plan we could be open to claims in future for compensation.
â€œAll of this land is within green belt and was not proposed for development.
â€œBut because the development criteria meet that set by the previous cabinet, even though we do not endorse the plan, we have no choice but to agree.â€
The Championship club and property firm Stirling Scotfield plan to build 234 new houses and sports facilities across 25 acres of land, which Rams chairman Mark Sawyer last week branded â€œscrublandâ€.
The current training pitch would be replaced by multi-use games areas, a park, a green corridor, footpaths, a cycleway, car parking and the residential development.
The backing of the Cabinet means that developers can now apply for planning permission.
Liberal Democrat leader Kath Pinnock raised doubts over who will benefit from the deal. â€œIs it the Rams, the council, or the developer?â€ she said. â€œI think we should be told all the facts before any decision is made.â€
Tory Robert Light defended Labourâ€™s â€œforcedâ€ backing.
â€œThe agreement was reached in good faith by the then cabinet putting first the interests of the council, tax payers, Dewsbury and rugby league in Kirklees,â€ claimed Coun Light.
â€œAny suggestions of improper conduct by the then cabinet are completely erroneous.â€
Meanwhile, after months of setbacks and delays, work has finally got underway on the Ramsâ€™ brand-new Owl Lane Terrace.
Kirklees Council expressed
concerns regarding the clubâ€™s initial plans, which have subsequently twice been altered at a â€œsubstantialâ€ cost.
The roofless structure is to provide extra standing room for supporters and the Rams are hopeful of its completion in June.
However, the terraceâ€™s overall cost, funded by shareholders and donations, is understood to have
rocketed after building regulators called for changes.
â€œItâ€™s been a frustrating period for everyone involved, but we are off the mark,â€ said life-long support Graham Beaumont, who is co-ordinating the build.
â€œWe were told we couldnâ€™t lay concrete directly onto the earth as it may dry in stages and later crack, which has been the case at other grounds. We want to get it right first time around and we are doing so.
â€œThe steps are being cast as of now and materials are arriving on a daily basis.
â€œWe hope to have all safety checks complete in time for the Halifax home game on June 23.â€