RESIDENTS and council officials are battling against a green eco project which, they claim, is destroying the environment.
Kirklees Council has issued a Planning Contravention Notice and written to Mark Brooke, owner of Brooke’s Mill, advising him to stop work on his mill race scheme in the Armitage Bridge conservation area.
They have also informed the Environment Agency and the Police Wildlife Officer of the works, for which no permissions have been requested or granted.
Local residents are worried and angry that the large scale dredging and future plans may cause flooding to their nearby homes in Stockwell Vale. Their homes are rated as a level three flood risk, the highest level.
The residents say problems started three months ago when Mr Brooke’s contractors began dredging the small disused mill race.
A mill race is the channel of a stream, especially one for conducting water to or from a water wheel or other device for using its energy.
The intention was to divert water from the River Holme to drive turbines to provide electricity for the mill buildings, which now house small businesses, a film studio, conference venue and cafe.
Local residents, led by Alison France, became alarmed at the scale of the works. They claim that:
Countless tons of mud, silt and crushed stone have been dumped up to three feet deep on surrounding fields, causing an eyesore and the level of the land to rise, which could make their houses more vulnerable to floods
Trees which grew alongside the mill race have been felled without permission
A public footpath has been obstructed
Large plant machinery blocks residents’ access on daily basis, resulting in dangerous manoeuvres on Armitage Road.
Alison France said: “It is absolutely disgusting what is going on. The problem we have is that there is no planning permission, no plans, no assessment and no design so we just don’t know what is going on.
“In the past the mill race was a stagnant little trickle, now it is fully open and exposed. Our main concern is the long-term impact of flooding, which we cannot calculate at this stage due to lack of information.”
The residents have contacted Clr Donald Firth, chairman of Huddersfield Planning Sub-committee who alerted Kirklees Council’s enforcement team following a visit to the site.
Clr Firth said: “It is a total mess, it’s awful. I am amazed at what they have been doing down there and nobody has done anything about it.
“I am told that planning permission is required. It needs a stop notice. ” In an email to Clr Firth, Kevin Walton, Kirklees enforcement team leader, stated: “I am aware of the works currently being undertaken at the mill race and I visited a number of weeks ago and informed the owner (Mr Brooke) that planning permission is required for the works.
“He argues that he is simply repairing the mill race to its original working condition with a view to increasing water flow to drive water turbines within the mill complex.”
He added that a Planning Contravention Notice had been formally issued and that Mr Brooke was required to respond by the end of this week.
A Kirklees spokesman added: “If no positive steps are taken to resolve this breach in planning control, we will decide, in consultation with other relevant agencies and in terms of the work’s planning merits, whether to pursue formal action to have the works reversed.”
Despite several attempts, the Examiner was unable to contact Mr Brooke for a comment yesterday.