Massive development plans for district are revealed

Massive development plans for district are revealed

A MAJOR planning strategy which seeks to address the area’s economic and social problems has been proposed. Kirklees Council’s Local Plan allocates land for housing and industry up to the year 2031, subject to Government approval.

There is a huge scheme for Chidswell in Dewsbury, plus a ‘new town’ of up to 4,000 homes at Ravensthorpe.

Other key projects include homes and industry for Hunsworth, Chain Bar and an area between Cleckheaton and Scholes.

The policy aims to replace the council’s Unitary Development Plan – in force since 1999 and considered out of date.

It comes after a previous bid at creating a successor was rejected by the Government two years ago.

Overall, 30,000 homes are proposed for Kirklees, 10,000 of which are already on the books in existing applications from developers.

Ravensthorpe is the biggest single housing scheme in North Kirklees, while 1,535 homes plus industrial units are planned for land off Leeds Road in Chidswell.

The earlier failed plan only allocated 500 homes and 35 hectares of land for industrial use at Chidswell.

Mark Eastwood, of the Chidswell Action Group, dubbed plans for their area, which involves the sale of Church of England land, “astonishing”.

He said: “The council and the church have ignored people’s views and seem hell-bent on destroying valuable farmland and green space at Chidswell.

“The fact that they have increased the housing numbers substantially is astonishing.

“But make no mistake, we will continue to fight this just as fiercely as the last time, if that is what the residents of Chidswell still want.”

Other plans would see 224 homes on land off Mill Street in Birstall and 318 on the site of Moorland Business Centre in Cleckheaton.

Smaller schemes are dotted all over the district, such as 15 homes on land off Long Lane in Earlsheaton.

The draft proposals aim to fix what the council sees in a report as economic and social barriers to progress.

In North Kirklees, the number of shoppers who go elsewhere, especially to Leeds and Wakefield, is considered a problem.

And many who live here work outside the district in what the report classes as higher-paying jobs.

Pockets of high unemployment, deprivation and poor health were found, particularly in Dewsbury and Batley.

Both towns also suffer from a higher-than-average number of empty town centre shops and offices. The state of Dewsbury is a priority, with Chidswell, Ravensthorpe and Cooper Bridge seen as keys to regeneration.

Fitting into that are improvements at Ravensthorpe Railway Station, even though Mirfield boasts the area’s only direct train link to London.

Coun Peter McBride, Labour cabinet member for skills, jobs and transport, said regeneration is vital for Dewsbury.

He said: “We’ve tried all sorts of initiatives, including Pioneer House, which shows the council is concerned and interested in the area.

“But here we think this will generate the kind of resources which will really transform Dewsbury.

“And at the same time we can meet the area’s housing and industrial needs in the long term.”

Tory leader Coun Robert Light said the plans would decimate greenfield and greenbelt land.

He added: “Labour’s Local Plan will impact on the lives of everyone in the borough for years to come.

“We believe the plan is bad for Kirklees and is not sustainable without a massive investment to overhaul the transport infrastructure of the borough.

“We will be looking at Labour’s proposals in detail and the impact that they will have in all communities across Kirklees.

“We will be closely examining their justification for their intended incursions into green belt and the increased allocation of land for housing proposals.

“In addition we will be taking note of the results of their consultation exercise with great interest.”

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