Kirklees planners threat to local firm

A FAMILY firm faces the threat of closure over a dispute with Kirklees planning officers – despite the Council’s intention to concrete over green belt and build thousands of houses “a stone’s throw” away.
DMR Commercials have endured a threeyear nightmare with Kirklees planners over the status of their business repairing HGVs in the former Stanley Gath Coaches garage in Lees Hall Road, Thornhill Lees.
Now, with enforcement action hanging over them, nine jobs could be lost as a result of a campaign orchestrated by a neighbouring farmer – who coincidentally stands to get rich out of the Council’s housing plans for Thornhill Lees.
Objector Martin Broadhead’s farm is opposite DMR. He leases much of his land from Kirklees and stands to get substantial compensation if the homes plan goes ahead.
DMR’s planning case was delegated to officers but when the consultation period closed last week Mr Daniel gave Mr Broadhead and the other objectors a 10 day extension in order that they could submit their statements as sworn affidavits.
Mr Daniel told The Press he would treat those submissions far more seriously than written evidence supporting DMR, which he intended discounting essentially as being “favours”.
Despite assisting the objectors with legalising their opposition, he admitted he had not given the same advice to DMR. “They’ve had four years to make their case. I don’t have to give them any help,” he said.
In fact DMR have only been on the Gath site just over three years.
Mr Daniel told The Press that Coun Khizar Iqbal had asked for the plan to be referred to the Heavy Woollen Planning Committee if he decided to approve it. Coun Iqbal, who had at first assisted DMR with their application, and later the objectors, denied that was the case saying his position on the planning committee meant he could not take sides.
The dispute centres on the  interpretation of whether the Stanley Gath building had been used to service vehicles for more than 10 years. Mr Daniel said he classed it as a ‘depot’ and not a garage and that as such he was inclined to deny a certificate of lawful use – and ignore witness statements supporting the plan.
He added: “I’m not saying I’m on anyone’s side but the residents have to have some closure on this … we may be looking at putting thousands of homes within a stone’s throw of this, but this is a bus depot (as opposed to) how it’s being used.”
He said planners had not carried out noise pollution monitoring because his “experience” was sufficient to make his decision. He also admitted that he knew the site “only to a degree”.
DMR’s neighbours include both light and heavy industry, including a Tarmac Readymix site, HGV Direct, Premium Timber and Longley’s Concrete firm – whose noise levels and working hours dwarf other local firms. In addition HGVs use the road daily to service business units behind what is known locally as the ‘Mushroom Farm’.
DMR, owned by Dominic Rush, 37, who lives in Mirfield, was originally based in Mill Street East, Dewsbury. Mr Rush spent £18,000 moving into the Stanley Gath site just before Christmas in 2008.
When he applied for a routine certificate of lawful use – because Gaths had used the garage to service both theirs and other vehicles for around 50 years – planners threw it out, plus applications to change use.
Mr Rush said: “This building was ideal because it already had pits and service bays for working on large vehicles.
“We operate limited hours compared to what Stanley Gath did and Mr Broadhead even said he was happy about that. I don’t know what’s changed his mind, but this could cost me and my family our livelihood.”
In a statement Kirklees Council’s Director of Place Jacqui Gedman said: “This kind of application essentially comes down to a matter of fact – we have to establish whether the building has been used for a specific purpose continually for a period of 10 consecutive years.”
She added: “While there was support for the company in the documents with the original application for lawful use, many more objections came in once the application was advertised.
“The objectors in this case suggested to the planning officer that they would submit sworn affidavits to give their case more legal persuasion.
“There is no connection with extending the closing date for consultation – this frequently happens – and there has also been a political request to send this to planning committee if officers are minded to grant the Certificate. We are also awaiting our own inhouse legal advice on this matter.”
Mr Broadhead refused to comment and his wife ordered our reporter off their property.
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