IT’S turning into the ‘Northorpe Mystery Traffic Census’ – who exactly commissioned a report on traffic movement directly outside the site of a controversial planned housing development?
There’s an ongoing battle between local residents trying to halt the plan for 48 new homes on land off Northorpe Lane, which is backed by both planning officers and councillors. As things stand, the battle centres on a wide grass verge which belongs to the Northorpe Hall Trust, but which Kirklees is trying to claim it can develop.
Protestors say Northorpe Lane is totally unsuitable on a variety of levels – but now want to know who carried out a traffic census directly outside the house of land owner and applicant John Cowell, which would have to be demolished for access if the development proceeds.
Residents say the census took place either side of July 16 last year, when the planning application was submitted.
They tracked down the sub-contractor from Wrexham who carried out the work, but have not established who commissioned it – and why the results have not come to light.
“The only reason we can imagine they would have been suppressed, is if they didn’t help the cause of the people wanting this development,” said resident Richard Gawthorpe.
Kirklees Council planning and highways officers claim to be completely in the dark about any survey.
And this week the developer’s agents, Huddersfield company Acumen Designers and Architects, gave The Press a cagey reply when asked if it was their operation.
A spokesperson said: “All the information commissioned by our client has been sent to the Council and is in the public domain, and easily visible for anyone to see.
“The census you refer to may have been commissioned by another developer looking to build any of the proposed 400 houses in the area.”
Mr Gawthorpe rubbished the idea that it could possibly be intended for any development other than the one it was adjacent to.
As part of the application’s intended approval Kirklees Council wanted to remove a grass verge to assist access and provide parking for 12 vehicles. Residents say the narrow lane is already gridlocked at peak times.
At a Heavy Woollen Planning sub committee meeting in January, campaigners were left frustrated when the application was deferred and they were not allowed to voice their arguments against it.
However they have since discovered that Acumen’s town planning expert is well known to the local authority – Hamish Gledhill was a former Principal Planning Officer for Kirklees, who was allowed to resign following an internal investigation which showed he had also been working privately for a developer.
At the time of his resignation in 2011 the council said it was accepting his resignation in order to “protect the integrity of the Local Development Framework” – the long-term plan to build thousands of houses across Kirklees.