Opposition is growing over a bid to develop a Huddersfeld beauty spot.
The Thornhill Estates want their holdings around Ainley Top to be included in Kirklees’ Local Plan, which could pave the way for development.
A masterplan for 650 acres of housing, commercial, open land and potential educational use in the Grimescar Valley was revealed this week.
In 2011 residents fought off a planning bid by Thornhill Estates when a cross-party planning committee rejected it, but they’ve returned with amended plans during what is a period of planning limbo for Kirklees Council, which has an out-of-date planning policy.
Thornhill Estates acknowledge that “Kirklees Council can no longer demonstrate a five-year land supply for housing... and it is unlikely that there will be a new plan in place for at least two years. For this reason we are bringing forward this area (POL) within the Huddersfield Gateway proposal for development now.”
Conservative MP Jason McCartney says: “I have always been clear that I oppose any development here.
“It’s an extremely beautiful part of Huddersfield and it’s an exceptionally rare spot of green countryside in a heavily congested part of West Yorkshire.
“This area is already congested - but the compelling argument is it’s not sustainable, it’s not in walking distance to anywhere so people would rely on cars.
“The Kirklees situation can be resolved, I led a meeting with council officers and local councillors in Parliament recently and the planning minister (Nick Boles) made it clear they should crack on with the Local Plan and the emerging plan will bring protections.”
Clr Peter McBride, Cabinet member for Investment and Regeneration, said: “There’s no doubt that the situation has changed since 2011. We haven’t got the five-year land supply and while the greenbelt arguments are sound, we do have this issue with POL, which a lot of this land is.
“Ideally we wouldn’t want it to be developed, but given the current situation it’s going to be difficult for us and we need a common sense approach because if we lost on appeal the rules mean we don’t get the benefits.
“If we have to have this because of the POL classification then we need to get the benefits for Kirklees and we can only do that by talking to the developer.
“I think logically all-party working is the way forward and we need to come up with the best solution in these circumstances so it’s us in Kirklees who make these big decisions rather than having it imposed by a Planning Inspector.
“We can beat our hands in the air but it doesn’t take us anywhere, we’re one year away from a Local Plan and it means we are vulnerable in these circumstances.”
Clr Burke, Lindley Lib Dem, said: “It was always in the background and we knew it would come back.
“It’s important for the residents groups like Save Grimescar Valley to lead on this and we as politicians support them and it should be considered on individual not party political lines.
“Residents are ready to put up a fight all the way.
“I don’t buy into the new school, this plan will absolutely destroy Grimescar Valley and it’s a token gesture and doesn’t mean we should allow our greenfield to disappear.”
Asked if the lack of a Local Plan put the site in line for development, Clr Burke said: “It does leave us in a vulnerable position - I’m not entering into a blame game but it does leave us as risk and we have to work hard together to save this.”
Lindley Conservative Clr Mark Hemingway is unable to give his personal view as he sits on the planning committee. He said: "I won't put my place on the committee at risk by giving a view as I would be excluded from taking part in the meeting, but I can advise residents how they can make their views known to the council and then we can consider them when it comes to the committee."
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