Campaigners fighting plans for a new housing estate first thrown out 15 years ago have urged council chiefs to learn the lessons of the past – and have even claimed the council could be putting lives at risk if they give it the go-ahead.
Hundreds of residents in Mirfield successfully beat off plans for Balderstone Hall fields after a public inquiry in 1999.
A planning inspector rejected plans from Bellway Homes ruling that the narrow roads around the fields couldn’t cope with the extra traffic and youngsters at the nearby Crossley Fields Primary School would be at risk from road safety dangers.
Earlier this year Bellway submitted a planning application for 135 houses on the fields off Hepworth Lane, which, in parts, is a single track road with no pavement.
Now campaign group Save Mirfield has written an open letter to Kirklees Council’ s chief executive Adrian Lythgo to ensure planners are aware of the history.
In the letter, signed by chairman Cheryl Tyler, the group warns that council officers could be “personally liable” if they allow road safety hazards to be created.
Mrs Tyler said that the original planning inspector Christopher Frost had backed the council and Mirfield Town Council’s concerns over road safety.
She said: “Nothing has changed that would materially improve matters. Indeed, things have worsened in the sense that this local school is now fully subscribed and traffic numbers in the vicinity have increased.”
She added: “We believe that given this plan creates known and identified hazards, approval by the officers of the council could be viewed as negligent creating potential personal liabilities should there be an accident in the locality.”
The letter says that some months ago Save Mirfield became aware of a new highways report compiled by the council.
A campaign march was held earlier this year - see images below.
A Freedom of Information (FOI) request to see the report was refused and an appeal was also rejected.
Mrs Tyler said: “Knowing that Kirklees Council was concerned in the past about the highways issues we were astonished at this secrecy.
“With the passing of years and changes in personnel it could perhaps be claimed that the findings of the inspector’s inquiry have been forgotten or lost in the files of Kirklees.
“We think it is important that those who have the responsibility of safeguarding the public, including the children attending the school, are made aware of these earlier findings.”
Mrs Tyler said the aim of the letter was to ensure Kirklees was aware of the full history and background and could not claim later to know nothing about the previous inquiry.
She added: “Mirfield is the most densely populated town in Kirklees and cannot take any more development.
“The schools are full, the doctor’s is full and the dentist’s is full. Just think what another 300 cars will do for the area.”
A council spokesman said: “An FOI request made in June was for access to internal communication between council departments which covered initial thoughts about the planning application.
“We refused the FOI request because, as we explained at the time and in the words of the Information Commissioner, it is important that officers have ‘a safe space to develop ideas, debate live issues, and reach decisions away from external interference and distraction.’
“The comments about the planning application are now publicly available through the council’s website.
“In terms of personal liability, any allegation of negligence would need to be directed at the local planning authority, rather than individual employees.”