PLANNERS have advised councillors to block a controversial supermarket proposal.
Kirklees Council will decide next week whether to allow a new Tesco in Holmfirth following years of bitter debate in the Holme Valley.
Officials yesterday published their report into the plan to build a store at the former Midlothian Garage site off New Mill Road.
They have advised councillors to refuse permission for the Holmfirth supermarket – because there is a better site off Woodhead Road, near Honley Bridge, in Honley.
Planners believe the land currently occupied by Keith Drake agricultural merchants and Kirklees Highways department is more suitable for a supermarket.
Officials concluded that the Honley site is closer to its village centre and has better transport links than the Midlothian Garage site.
The officers’ report says: “The Tesco proposal is significantly outside the centre of Holmfirth and closer in fact to the smaller settlements of Wooldale and Thongsbridge.
“This location, although adjacent to a main road, is unsuitable for a development of this scale, with its associated travel demand and lack of accessibility.
“It is located where predicted levels of traffic will cause severe highway safety and environmental problems at sub-standard road junctions and on minor residential roads, including Heys Road, where a major school exists.
“There is at least one potentially suitable, available and viable site on the edge of the other large local centre in the store’s catchment area: Honley.
“The Midlothian site would consequently fail to achieve key planning policy objectives in relation to: promoting developments in locations that are the most readily accessible locations by alternative means of transport; reducing the need to travel; and allowing customers to undertake linked trips.
“The Drake’s site constitutes at least one potential site that is better placed to achieve these key objectives.”
Officers believe the Drake’s site is preferable to Midlothian and to several other possible supermarket locations in the Holme Valley including:
Bridge Foundry, Bridge Lane, Holmfirth
Land south of 30 New Mill Road, Honley
Former Thongsbridge Mills site
Land adjoining Bottoms Mill, Woodhead Road, Holmfirth
Former Perseverance Mills Site, Woodhead Rd, Holmfirth
Land adjoining Replan factory, New Mill Road, Brockholes
Former Kastix Imports warehouse, Huddersfield Road, Holmfirth.
Officials have recommended that the council’s Huddersfield Planning Sub-committee reject the Midlothian proposal at next week’s meeting.
Tim Radcliffe of pro-Tesco group Holme Valley Voices criticised the officers’ recommendation last night.
He said: “I think it’s a great disappointment and a hugely misguided decision.
“If the Honley site gets the go-ahead it would suck the life out of Holmfirth totally.
“Tesco would bring people in, it would generate footfall which could only be a good thing.”
Tesco corporate affairs manager Deborah Hayeems also criticised Kirklees officers last night.
“We are astounded that the council would prefer to see such significant investment go to a site on the edge of a village instead of the best available site in Holmfirth, which is the principal town in the Holme Valley.
“We have explained to the council why the Honley site is not viable unless it is for a large store – which is precisely what the council told us was not acceptable in Holmfirth.”
But Margaret Dale, who chairs anti-Tesco group Keep Holmfirth Special, welcomed the Kirklees report last night.
“The planning officers seem to have done a very thorough job,” she said.
“The main concern is highways. The extra number of journeys that will be created will put an intolerable load on our road network.
“This is the wrong place for a large supermarket.”
Kirklees yesterday published its 89-page report into the Tesco plan.
Officers admitted that the supermarket would bring some benefit to Holmfirth – and would not damage other supermarkets in the valley.
They wrote: “The positive benefits of a scheme of this type and scale within the Holme Valley are recognised in terms of providing greater consumer choice, potentially better value, and helping to reduce inconvenient and unsustainable journeys.
“The proposals have been demonstrated to have no significant adverse impacts on existing centres or stores within the catchment area.”
Kirklees has received 2,151 letters backing the Tesco plan and 1,356 against the proposal.
The council’s Huddersfield Planning Sub-committee will rule on the proposal at a special meeting at Huddersfield Town Hall from 1pm next Wednesday.
The retail giant has asked Kirklees for permission to build a single-storey stone building at the former Midlothian Garage site.
The supermarket would have 2,150sq m of retail space of which 1,900sq m would be for food and 250sq m for clothing, stationery, books, toys, healthcare and baby products.
The development would have 217 parking spaces of which 12 would be reserved for disabled people and 11 allocated to staff.
The supermarket would also have 20 cycle spaces.
Tesco claims the new shop would generate 175 full-time and part-time jobs.
If the development goes ahead, the company would pay for new traffic signals and a pedestrian crossing at New Mill Road.