ANOTHER Holme Valley planning battle has kicked off after "Guantanamo Bay" style fencing was erected in quaint woodlands near Holmfirth.
Angry homeowners claim £50,000 worth of three-metre-high fencing has been put up by textile company Holmfirth Dyers on green belt land behind their mill without planning permission.
Dunford Road resident Jane Headford said bosses at the dyeing company had told her the stretch of metal fencing between Dunford Road and Holmfirth Junior School around the mill ponds and beck – a tributary to the river Ribble – was necessary to prevent children from falling into the water.
But Mrs Headford, a freelance set designer whose home office overlooks the site, said the new spiked fencing made the woods more dangerous and cast doubt on whether the land actually belonged to the firm.
‘We were told that it was green belt land in conservation area’
She said: "It’s depressing and I feel like we’re in prison. It’s like Colditz, it’s a real scar on the landscape, it’s destroying the feel of a Pennine community.
"We were told that land was green belt when we did the searches for buying our house and it’s right next to the conservation area of Holmfirth.
"I’m not sure it’s their land but even if it is there are rules about building on the green belt, the right to roam and so on," she added.
The mother of two also slammed Kirklees Council for failing to stop the fencing going up when she complained last year or beginning enforcement proceedings against Holmfirth Dyers – who have now lodged a retrospective planning application. A council planning spokesman said it would be put through the system as normal.
The spokesman added: "If somebody erects a fence and they haven’t got permission that’s entirely their risk.
"We’ve got no powers to stop them from putting in a retrospective planning application but if it is unsuccessful we can ask for the fence to be removed. If they fail to remove it we can begin enforcement action which can eventually lead to a criminal prosecution."
Holmfirth Dyers’ health and safety manager, Lynda Baldwin, claimed the company had been forced to replace old fencing immediately following a risk assessment on the company’s dams.
"We had no choice by law," she said, "we know children come on to our land so we have to make it safe. It’s all above board, the fencing that’s gone up is great. It will last and it’s not an eyesore, I’d much rather be looking at that than barbed wire.
"Foliage had to be cleared for the work to be done but once it grows back you are not even going to see it’s there.
"It’s private property so people shouldn’t use it as a short cut but we have cleared rope swings so we know they do.
"Whatever happens I have to make that dam secure. We’re just trying to follow the law and make it as safe as possible for everyone."
Mrs Baldwin said the 3m height was absolutely necessary to prevent people climbing over and if it had been any lower she would have insisted on barbed wire.
Chairman of the Holme Valley South Area Committee and valley councillor on Kirklees, Clr Ken Sims, backed the dye firm and said he was confident they owned the land.
"They thought they were doing the right thing because they had children playing nearby," he said. "Children also use (the woods) as a route through to school so they have a duty of care. They’re trying to do the right thing on advice from health and safety, they’ve just re-lined the pond and it’s very slippy, children could fall in there and drown.
"When the vegetation grows again you won’t see it (the fence), " Clr Sims added.
But Mrs Headford, who has enjoyed unspoiled views for 16-years, was rolling up her sleeves for battle in a bid to get the fence removed.
"I don’t want to make enemies but they’ve done it very unsympathetically," she said.
"It shouldn’t be like that, it looks like something round a great big power station. They have created a worse situation and there’s got to be a compromise," she added