‘Homes plan could be headache for residents – and developers’

‘Homes plan could be headache for residents – and developers’

LAND in Birstall may prove difficult to build on – and cause huge problems for residents should development go ahead.

That is the view of campaigners fighting plans for up to 224 homes on playing fields off Smithies Moor Lane.

The fields, owned by the Catholic church, could have coal mine shafts under them and may once have been the site of a reservoir.

Residents do not know what is under the fields and claim Kirklees has no idea either.

When Grahame and Jennifer Jackson, of nearby Bridge Street, wanted to build a home extension last year, no current council records could be found.

They commissioned their own survey and discovered links to mine shafts last worked in 1934.

A culvert believed to be part of a former reservoir was also found, neither of which was listed on any map held by Kirklees.

The couple, recently retired from Upper Batley High School, faced problems with their extension as a result.

Any developer taking the site on could leave residents with a string of difficulties, say campaigners.

The draft Local Plan shows only one entry and exit point, from the playing fields’ gate onto narrow Mill Street. It is already used as a rat run by drivers to avoid Smithies Moor Lane and the busy Smithies junction.

A public meeting last Friday heard claims that Kirklees could compulsorily purchase some homes to make a wider entrance.

Losing the fields, used by Birstall St Patrick’s FC, may also make the area more prone to flooding.

Many older terraced homes around Mill Street are subject to flooding in the cellars and some have permanent pumps fitted.

And there are concerns about pressure being put on already packed schools, doctors’ and dental surgeries.

Campaigner Val Stoneley, of Smithies Moor Lane, said: “While Kirklees can highlight problems, it’s down to the builder to address them.

“The expenditure to make these sites viable would far exceed the normal profit ratio.

“And if a less than good builder takes the site, I feel everyone around here will suffer, not to mention the new home owners.”

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