DEVELOPERS remain locked in a wrangle with Kirklees Council over the future of the picturesque Storthes Hall estate.
Younger Homes (Northern) Ltd this week secured an extension to its planning permission to build a retirement village on the Kirkburton site. The firm claims it has been “inundated” with interest from elderly people wanting to move there and work could have started some time ago.
But the council has imposed a condition that up to 20% of the site must be used for “affordable” housing – or the developers pay £3m for similar homes to be built elsewhere.
A previous outline application for 300 bungalows, a residential care home and other community facilities was approved after a public inquiry.
But work never started because the council insisted on the affordable housing clause. With that permission set to run out in January, Brighouse-based Younger Homes applied to extend the time limit for a further three years and the planning and highways committee agreed to the extension on Monday.
But it is understood the council will continue to seek the affordable housing condition which the firm says is unreasonable.
Mr Bill Ibberson, a director of Younger Homes, which owns much of the former mental hospital site, including hundreds of acres of woodland, said the development had been held up by council “intransigence.” He added: “The bone of contention is the amount of affordable housing. The amount being asked for – 20% or a sum of £3m – makes the whole project unviable. The council is asking people buying a retirement home to contribute towards building homes for other people. It would add £10,000 to the cost of a property.”
Mr Ibberson said the council had not insisted on similar conditions for two other planned retirement villages in Kirklees, one at Mirfield25, off Leeds Road, Mirfield, and the other at Ponderosa in Heckmondwike.
Mr Ibberson said that whenever the Storthes Hall scheme had been marketed, his firm had been “inundated” with enquiries. With an ageing population retirement communities, with all facilities in one place, were in demand, he added. “And by building retirement communities we free up houses for families and that in turn eases the pressure to build on the green belt,” he said.
Meanwhile, Younger Homes has erected ‘private property’ signs on trees in the wood. Mr Ibberson said the firm was happy for ramblers and dog walkers to use the woods but there was a problem with off-road bikers and vehicles posing a danger and causing damage.
“It is private property,” said Mr Ibberson. “We want to encourage people to enjoy the woods for the right reasons, but we want to stop the anti-social behaviour.”
Mr Ibberson said a man had been reported to police for cutting down trees for his wood burner. “His defence was that there was nothing to stop him. There is now, that’s why we have the signs,” said Mr Ibberson.
A council spokesman said: “The council is still supporting the development hence the recent renewal of planning permission. The development referred to was subject to a public inquiry in 2006. At that time it was agreed that the development should provide an affordable housing contribution. This view was upheld by the Secretary of State. The issue of whether affordable housing should continue to be provided is now subject to an appeal.”