MP Barry Sheerman’s anger over Castle Hill lobbying

AN MP last night voiced his fury at what he termed “active lobbying” over pub plans for Castle Hill.

Artists impression of proposed pub on Castle Hill

AN MP last night voiced his fury at what he termed “active lobbying” over pub plans for Castle Hill.

And he pledged the matter could well be raised in Westminster.

Barry Sheerman, Huddersfield MP, said he was deeply concerned at the way backers of the bid to rebuild a pub on the landmark site were acting.

But his comments brought protests from senior councillors, who said that lobbying both for and against a planning application was a key part of the decision process.

They insisted that councillors would declare details of information given to them before any meetings.

Mr Sheerman was also criticised by Kirklees leader Clr Mehboob Khan, who pointed out that the MP was an active lobbyist when the plans for a Tesco superstore in Huddersfield were up for discussion.

Both Clr Khan and Almondbury councillor Phil Scott said they welcomed contributions from the public and from interested groups in the run-up to a planning decision.

The new application is now up for debate and anyone wanting to submit their views to planning officers should do so by December 27.

The Thandi brothers have submitted a new bid to try and get planning permission for a pub, having failed twice in the past. Their last application was voted down by 8-7 at the planning sub committee.

But Mr Sheerman is anxious that councillors take a stand against the proposals and against the lobbying.

He now plans to raise the issue with Clr Khan and chief executive Adrian Lythgo, and with ministers in the House of Commons.

Mr Sheerman said: “I am very concerned at the amount of active lobbying that is going on.

“It is totally unacceptable that this degree of lobbying of councillors is taking place. I know it is going on behind the scenes and that shows contempt for local people and their views. If necessary I will raise this in the Commons.

“I have asked the chief executive of Kirklees Council and the leader not to allow any development of the site until we have the results of the major archaeological survey that is currently under way.

“We have a chance to finally learn details of the history of Castle Hill we have never had before and that should be our priority.”

Mick and Barry Thandi submitted another application last month to build a replica of the building which was knocked down in 2005 following a dispute with Kirklees Council.

They hope that a plan to control traffic on the narrow steep road up the hillside will help their case.

The brothers’ plan to build another Castle Hill Hotel was first rejected in 2010 because the site lies on green belt land.

Their agent, Mark Lee, of One 17 Design, said: “The Thandis have been talking to all sorts of people about what is a very important scheme and in the past have organised meetings to gauge opinions.

“What they are doing is more than acceptable.”

Clr Khan said: “There are individuals and organisations who are both for and against and my belief is that we should be listening to them.

“If there is lobbying the councillors have been trained to declare it before any discussions on any application and it is taken into consideration.

“Mr Sheerman himself lobbied people over the Tesco plans and ended up being criticised by the Planning Inspector. Members of the public should be able to approach councillors to let them know their views.”

There were similar sentiments from Clr Phil Scott who said he had been gathering opinions both for and against the pub plan from people in Almondbury and the rest of Huddersfield.

“On balance the pro-pub people are in the majority but it is very close.

“A lot of people have contacted me and said because Castle Hill is such a popular landmark, we need to have some facilities up there be it a pub or something else.

“We need the public to let us and the planning officers have their views and we need to listen to them.”

 

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