Reevell slams CofE for LDF land stance

CHURCH leaders are putting profit before communities over plans to sell land at Chidswell to developers, an MP has claimed. Dewsbury’s Simon Reevell (Con) hit out after Church of England leaders said they want to sell some of the green belt they own off Leeds Road. The land, along with four other sites, was bought from UK Coal for £12.5m. It could be worth more than 10 times that if sold for housing and industry. They could net a windfall of £100,000 an acre for 86 acres of land put forward for business use under a new planning framework. Another 358 acres could be worth £300,000 an acre if used for homes, with Mr Reevell claiming it is the sort of ‘profiteering’ levelled at bankers. Any selloff would need approval from the Church Commissioners body. Mr Reevell said: “Those working for the church commissioners told me they have a ‘legal duty’ to maximise income from their investment portfolio. “This same legal duty obliges firms to maximise their profits for shareholders, but whose behaviour prompted warnings from the Archbishop of York. “Many will struggle to reconcile an attitude of profit before communities with Dr Sentamu’s plea for a change of ethics from the accumulation of wealth.” Parishioner Rod Lilley, also of the Chidswell Action Group, said he had turned his back on the Church of England in protest at their involvement. Haulage company boss Mr Lilley said: “I’ve been going to church for years, but not now. I’ve got to stand up for what I believe in. We have to stop the plan before it gets the goahead. If the council gets what it wants, the land will be brownfield and they can build on it.” Rev Amanda Barraclough, vicar of St Mary’s Church in Woodkirk, attended a protest meeting along with over 600 locals recently. She backs their campaign and added: “I hope people see the difference between local church communities and the “head office”. A Church Commissioners’ spokesman said: “We see no ethical problem in assisting a council deliver land for jobs and homes where they are needed. “Should those responsible decide to allocate the land in the longterm for use as a business park and for housing, we would therefore support that.”

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