By Tony Earnshaw Local Democracy Reporter
KIRKLEES Council intends to spend £750,000 moving allotments to a new site in order to build one of its flagship housing schemes.
The massive Dewsbury Riverside project will eventually see 4,000 houses built on a vast swathe of land at Thornhill Lees between Ravensthorpe and Mirfield.
The allotment land, off Lees Hall Road, will form part of an access “spine road” leading off from a new roundabout junction at Forge Lane.
The neighbouring Masjid Abu Bakr mosque and Lees Hall Playgroup, formerly the Blacker Arms pub, are set to be demolished as part of the plan.
Providing a new site for the 24 allotments on the Ravenshall site is a crucial part of the council’s scheme.
The council will replace the current 24 plots at Ravenshall with 25 plots on a new as-yet unspecified site at an estimated cost of £750,000.
However having faced a legal challenge from campaigners after it sought to appropriate allotments in Huddersfield, the council will treat the allotment gardens as statutory.
On that basis their proposed closure will be subject to approval by Robert Jenrick, the Secretary of State for Housing.
The allotments relocation money forms part of a £3.6m package of expenditure that also includes relocating the mosque/playgroup, a delivery plan for phase one of the site, involving council-owned land, and “critical design work” for the new junction dubbed the “eastern gateway”.
Mayor of Mirfield and Conservative councillor for Kirklees, Coun Martyn Bolt, said rather than spending hundreds of thousands of pounds on relocating the allotments they could be incorporated in the Dewsbury Riverside design.
He accused the council of “a heavy-handed attitude” and said he feared that allotments in Dewsbury would be “fair game” if the Labour-led authority felt it could “get a better return” by selling such plots for development.
He said: “This sets a worrying precedent, which Kirklees Council are capitalising on very quickly by sacrificing the Ravenshall allotments for Dewsbury Riverside.”
Creating the eastern gateway through the mosque and allotments will open up the first stage of the Dewsbury Riverside project, which will be built on 70 acres of council-owned land.
It is expected that approximately 1,869 homes will be built over the next 11 years.
The remaining 2,131 homes will be built after the council has bought a further 11.5 acres of land, which is owned by the Diocese of Leeds, part of the Church of England.
Kirklees has applied for millions of pounds in funding to deliver its plan, including £22.5m from Homes England for infrastructure to open up a central gateway, a second access to the site, and £4.6m from West Yorkshire Combined Authority (WYCA) to develop 240 homes as part of the eastern gateway.
Included in the first phase of development will be a new two-form entry primary school and nursery. Although the precise location has yet to be finalised it is scheduled for completion by the summer of 2024.
A third access point from Ravensthorpe Road, known as the western gateway, to open up the whole of the Dewsbury Riverside site is currently in third party ownership.
The council says discussions with the owner of the land “have been limited to date.”
A report on the proposals is expected to be approved by the council’s decision-making Cabinet next week (Feb 25).