CAMPAIGNERS have launched a drive to protect a historic Huddersfield mill ponds and allotment site.
The campaign is being led by Newsome Ward Community Forum.
It has been prompted by an application to build homes on the Newsome Mills site on Ruth Street, which the campaigners say would threaten the mill ponds and surrounding green space.
The ponds are a key feature of the mills, which were founded by John Taylor in 1827.
Several of the buildings at the fine worsted textile complex were awarded Grade II listed building status by English Heritage this year.
Campaigners have worked hard to protect the site, but they fear that plans by builders Bloor Homes for a development there will undermine their efforts.
Forum member Diane Sims – whose mum Jean is also a leader of the campaign – said: “The 19th-century mill ponds and culvert are an essential part of the character of central Newsome.
“It would be terrible to lose this important part of the mill complex, especially as we have fought so hard to protect all the mill buildings.
“A lot of people clearly care about this land, which is an important part of our local heritage.
“They want to see it kept as an open space for the benefit of local people and wildlife.”
The campaigners are also worried that the proposed development by Bloor Homes to build 28 homes on the site would act in competition to a scheme from Royalle Estates, who own the other half of the mill site.
The Manchester company plans to convert the four-storey mill and other listed buildings into flats and build a crescent of houses behind the mill.
This would secure a future for the main mill buildings and, unlike the Bloor Homes scheme, would not require any loss of green space.
Newsome ward Kirklees councillor Andrew Cooper said of the scheme: “In the current housing market we have to ask whether, if these properties were built, they would be sold and inhabited in the near future.
“Quite apart from the dubious nature of the impact of the development on the site there is a big question mark as to whether of not it makes any economic sense.”
Campaigners are also worried that the historic allotment site off Hart Street will be under threat as well as the protected trees which line the approach to Newsome Mills.
The area is well used by nesting birds and bats, which forage over the ponds for insects.
Jean Sims said: “This is the last remaining greenfield area in the centre of Newsome. It provides a refreshing green space as well as a flourishing wildlife habitat.
“After 50 years looking out on to this peaceful area I do not wish to see it filled with more houses and cars.”
Many residents want to see the land returned to public use so that it can be properly maintained and cared for.
Suggestions include re-opening the allotment site, starting a fishing syndicate, establishing a wildlife area and using the land to help children learn about nature.
The campaign to save the site will be discussed at the next meeting of the forum, which will be attended by a representative from Kirklees Council’s planning office.
Residents are invited to attend and share suggestions and any information they have about the history of the site.
The meeting is at 6pm on Thursday, August 14, in the community room at Newsome High School on Castle Avenue.
For more information call Diane Sims on 07941 652836 or email sims31@btinter net.com