HEALTH chiefs have broken their promise to keep the former Shepley Health Centre for community use, it is claimed.
Angry parish and ward councillors say that during 2003 negotiations to build the new £1.6m village health centre on Jos Lane, the South Huddersfield Primary Care Trust (now Kirklees PCT) guaranteed the vacant site would be retained for the people of Shepley.
But the land has recently been sold to a private residential developer and an application for a two-storey block of 10 apartments is now being considered by Kirklees planners.
Chairman of Kirkburton Area Committee Clr Adrian Murphy said he and Clr Christine Smith had met Kirklees PCT bosses in a bid to make them honour their word.
Clr Murphy said no formal agreement had ever been signed but confirmed that PCT bosses had verbally made the promise.
“We understood then that it would be left for community use, but understandably money talks and the land is being used for apartments.
“We have had two meetings with the (PCT) chief executive but it was to no avail. We’ve done all we can do I’m afraid, the money situation over-rules everything else for them but we did really try.”
But Mike Potts, the NHS Kirklees chief executive, said that he could find no evidence of an agreement by the previous PCT.
He said: “There is a modern purpose-built surgery delivering excellent NHS services to local people. The old health centre is not fit for the purpose and is surplus to NHS requirements.
“The disposal of surplus property within the NHS is governed by Estatecode. The PCT is charged with obtaining best value for the site.
“The Shepley Health centre was advertised by the PCT’s appointed agents and a number of offers were received. The offer chosen represented the best offer incorporating use for houses consistent with the surrounding area.”
In their application, the land’s new owners, Oakdale Developments Ltd, say there is very little low cost housing in the village and point out that the matter has been raised many times by parish councillors and in the parish magazine.
They say: “It is therefore considered that some low-cost affordable housing is required in the village and as the site is of a reasonable size it is considered relevant to place them on this site.
“The social context of the area will be greatly enhanced and the visual amenity improved by the residential use of the site.
“There is no potential for overlooking or overshadowing from the site.
“There will be no impact on any local services by the use of the site for residential purposes, and the surrounding dwellings will benefit from a greatly reduced traffic movement and pedestrian movement along Long Lane.”
But Kirkburton parish councillor for Shepley, John Taylor, disagreed and said he was now leading a fight to block the planning bid.
“We have an eyesore in the village with youths hanging around. I’ve been working with the local residents and we are all accepting that it will be developed for housing, we’d rather that happened than it being left as an eyesore, but we’re not happy with the 10 flats.”
Clr Taylor acknowledged the need for affordable housing but said the plan was an unsuitable over-development of a small site as it was adjacent to pensioners and disabled residents and said he would prefer to see three or four small semis.
“There are plenty of other sites in Shepley but they tend to use larger sites and stick up five bedroom £700,000 houses. Young couples in Shepley can’t afford that,” he added.
Another Kirkburton parish councillor, Malcolm MacDonald, added: “When the PCT got this plot on the green belt, which by-the-way is unheard of, the deal was the old medical centre would be used for public community benefit.
“I for one feel very betrayed,” he added.