The fight has begun again to stop the picturesque Grimescar Valley being developed.
More than 200 people packed into Birchencliffe Cricket Club for the Save Grimescar Valley public meeting.
The club’s main room wasn’t large enough to hold all of the local residents, who spilled over into adjacent areas. They had arrived on foot, by car and bike to hear a call for action by organisers and Colne Valley MP Jason McCartney.
The meeting had been called by the Save Grimescar Valley pressure group, which campaigned against the 2011 Northern Gateway development plan by Thornhill Estates.
Now the developer has submitted Phase 1 of a new plan for around 200 houses adjacent to Burn Road with, according to campaigners, as many as another 600 in the Huddersfield Gateway phase.
Since Kirklees Council’s Local Development Framework (LDF) was thrown out by the government last autumn, land in Huddersfield remains unprotected and open season has been declared by developers.
Mr McCartney told the public meeting that in April, he had travelled to London with Kirklees CEO Adrian Lythgo and others to meet the then Planning Secretary Nick Boles. He said: “The Minister could not believe that there was not a new plan in progress. He even offered to send a special workforce up to knock them into shape.”
The MP said there were plenty of empty houses and brownfield sites in Huddersfield. He urged everyone to write to the council, the local newspaper and, most importantly, to Edmund Thornhill, the Cambridgeshire man behind the scheme whose family have owned the land for 800 years.
One campaigner accused Kirklees of “waving the white flag,” as the council could not afford to defend itself in court actions against developers.
John Gilbert, who organised the meeting, said that infrastructure such as roads and schools could not cope with the large influx of extra people and cars the development would create.
Committee member Dave Robinson said: “We are a strong community and we think we have a good case. Grimescar Valley is a special place which needs protecting, it is one of the last green places left so close to the urban conurbation and what makes Huddersfield so special. If this goes, it is game over.”
Fellow committee member Simon Robinson said: “This development is about one thing - making money. Kirklees is on the back foot, the council is folding on planning applications and developers are opportunistic.”
He added that the proposed development was neither sustainable, nor were the houses “affordable,” as described. Of the 207 houses he had counted on the first phase plan, 133 were detached “and they will be marketed as quick access to the M62,” he added.
Edmund Thornhill, MD of Thornhill Estates, told the Examiner this week: "I want local people to be sure on what is being proposed. A great deal of misinformation is out there saying the Grimescar Valley will be destroyed as a result of these proposals. This is simply not the case.
"Any development will be carried out sensitively and I will ensure that 85% of my land holdings in this area will be protected and remain undeveloped. "The Grimescar Valley will be opened up and enhanced. It will give far more access to the Valley than people currently have.
"I am happy to sit down with my team and representatives of local residents who genuinely and sincerely want to shape and influence the proposals so that we can deliver a first class, sensitive development of the area for the benefit of the whole community.
"It is also my intention to work with the local authority to provide considerable community benefits.”
Edmund Thornhill, 45, is a chartered surveyor. He is also controller and sole shareholder of Thornhill Estates and has previously made headlines for his support for the expansion of a conservation area on land which he owns near his house in Cambridgeshire.
He was featured in the local media for giving the go-ahead for Paxton Pits Nature Reserve, at St Neots, to be extended from 200 to 704 acres on his land in 2007. The Reserve is a haven for wildlife and waterfowl and includes nature trails and bird watching facilities.
In 2006, Mr Thornhill offered a six-figure sum of his own money for improvements to a road junction near where he lives in the village of Diddington at St. Neots to be improved. His family has owned most of the parish of Diddington for nearly 300 years.
Speaking of the dangers of heavy traffic, he said at the time: “Getting people into the village safely is the right thing to do for it to be sustainable as a community. The safety of the villagers and their children who use this junction on a daily basis is of paramount importance.”
Earlier this month Mr Thornhill said: “My family has had stewardship of the Fixby Hall estate for over eight centuries. This area is incredibly important to me and I am excited about these plans.
“I believe they will bring high quality developments that benefit our local area and everyone that lives here for the long term.”
Thornhill Estates is listed as having capital of £161,000. Its registered address is The Granary, 24A The Street, Diddington, St Neots, Cambridgeshire PE19 5XU.
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