Election Focus: The race for the Colne Valley ward in this year's Kirklees Council election

Voters go to the polls on Thursday May 3 to elect a representative in each of the 23 wards of Kirklees Council.

THE Colne Valley ward was once a Lib Dem stronghold, with the party holding all three seats.

All that changed in last year’s election when the party fell to third behind both Labour and the Conservatives.

But, with just 250 votes between the main parties in 2011, all three will fancy their chances this time.

Clr David Ridgway, who lives with his wife in Linthwaite, is defending the seat for the Lib Dems.

The 66-year-old father-of-three said a key issue in this year’s election is the fate of Slaithwaite Library, one of seven village centres in danger of losing its paid staff.

“The Lib Dems have found the funds to keep Slaithwaite Library open, but the Conservatives voted against it,” he said.

“We would put a levy on homeowners whose homes have been empty for more than a year.”

Development is also a big issue in the Colne Valley in this year’s election.

Clr Ridgway backs the Local Development Framework (LDF), the council’s plan to allow 22,470 new homes in Kirklees by 2028.

But he believes the framework protects undeveloped land in the Colne Valley.

“We have agreed to a very small release of green belt land – 1% of the total – in Dewsbury to encourage £600m of inward investment and there’s no development planned on green belt or green field sites in Colne Valley ward,” he said.

“The Conservatives have stated that they will not build on any green belt land and will retain all brownfield sites for industrial development. They will not say which green field sites will be used for their ambitions to build 18,000 homes.”

On this issue at least, Labour candidate Barbara Jones agrees.

“People do not understand the LDF. Myths are being perpetrated by the Conservatives that it’s a licence for development everywhere on the green belt,” she said.

“In fact it protects the green belt by identifying areas that are suitable for housing. We have to have houses and more affordable houses.”

However, the 70-year-old retired geography teacher disagrees with Clr Ridgway about Slaithwaite Library.

“I would support the involvement of volunteers in libraries,” she said.

“We don’t expect volunteers to suddenly take over the running of libraries. Volunteers will be encouraged with the help of the council in order to keep small libraries open.”

Mother-of-two Mrs Jones, who lives with her husband in Paddock, rejected claims that she is an outsider in the ward.

“I’m very fond of the Colne Valley, I walk up there daily and I live a matter of metres from the river,” said the former Greenhead councillor.

“When the Lib Dems say I’m not local, neither is the Conservative candidate.”

Tory hopeful David Hill, 64, lives with his wife in Milnsbridge.

The father-of-one has identified a number of key issues across the ward.

“There are concerns about Butterley Reservoir outside Marsden. Yorkshire Water are going to have to alter the spillway,” he said.

“It’s a superb piece of Victorian engineering and, as a civil engineer, I will be looking at the specifications of the replacement.

“The fire at Grosvenor Chemicals in Linthwaite is still at the front of people’s minds in the area because of the pollution it created.

“After two years little appears to have been done and I’m still highly concerned about the situation.

“There are near accidents all the time at the roundabout at the Commercial in Slaithwaite.”

Mr Hill added that employment would be his top priority if he is elected next Thursday.

“If I get in my number one priority will be knocking on doors in the Colne Valley and saying ‘how can we create some jobs?’ which is easier said than done,” he said.

Green candidate Lesley Hedges, 63, is also focusing on employment.

“People are worried about jobs, we would like more green jobs locally. We have the knowledge and the skills within the ward and the constituency,” she said.

Mrs Hedges who lives with her civil partner in Scapegoat Hill, opposes the council’s plan to remove paid staff from Slaithwaite Library.

“We don’t think the cuts to the library are necessary. It’s an essential part of a very vibrant community, there’s a lot going on there and people do need their library,” said the mother-of-two.

The semi-retired public health worker also wants to protect undeveloped land in the Colne Valley.

“Anything that’s green belt shouldn’t be built on without genuine consultation,” she said.

United Kingdom Independence Party candidate Melanie Roberts, 59, believes there are plenty of brownfield sites in the ward which should be redeveloped.

“There are issues about utilising the green belt land when there are quite a lot of brownfield sites that are not being used,” said the mother-of-eight.

“It would be suitable to turn places like Globe Worsted in Slaithwaite into living accommodation. We’ve got all these kind of areas that really want redeveloping.”

Mrs Roberts, who lives outside Slaithwaite and runs a book shop in the village, is sceptical about the council’s plan to hand the library over to volunteers.

“It’s an extremely important service to all sorts of people, young and old,” she said.

“I don’t know how we can run that on a voluntary basis.”

 

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