Update: Government minister Eric Pickles meets Dewsbury campaign groups

MINISTERIAL VISIT The Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, Eric Pickles, meets campaigners in Dewsbury.
MINISTERIAL VISIT The Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, Eric Pickles, meets campaigners in Dewsbury.

Campaigners fighting green belt development made their case to government minister Eric Pickles when he visited Dewsbury yesterday afternoon (Thursday).

The Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government met members of Chidswell Action Group and Thornhill Lees Community Action Group to hear about their experiences.

Both groups fought hard to change Kirklees Council plans to use green fields for housing or employment as part of the Local Development Framework (LDF).

But when the LDF was submitted earlier this month, it still included 1,500 homes and 35 hectares of business development on green belt land in Dewsbury.

Explaining the reason for his visit, Mr Pickles (Con) said: “It was Simon Reevell, the MP for Dewsbury, who felt I should have a look at this.

“I’m a bit constrained as to what I can say as planning minister, but I felt it would be a very good idea.”

He said the idea of the government’s Localism Bill had been to give communities a greater say on planning issues.

“In times gone by it would’ve been me who decided the number of houses and the like,” he said.

“The idea was to get local councils with their communities to get a consensus of housing numbers and where it has to go.

“I would expect the council to be actively engaging with local people.

“If the council finds there’s a whole community of folks who have a concern, it makes sense to talk to them. Just because they are disagreeing with them, it doesn’t mean [those people] don’t have other good ideas.”

Chidswell Action Group chairman Rod Lilley said he had told Mr Pickles about the campaign to stop 500 homes and 35 hectares of industrial development on green belt land to the east of Leeds Road.

He said: “Eric wanted the story of how we’ve got to this point and, with all due respect, he took it on board.”

Fellow group member Mark Eastwood added: “We told Eric how the council have let us down. They’ve not listened to us.”

Meanwhile, Thornhill Lees Community Action Group voiced concerns about proposals for thousands of new homes in their area.

Chairman Tony Green said he had spoken about the way Kirklees Council presented some of its figures.

He said: “Coun Mehboob Khan has made the point that in Kirklees there’s only one per cent of green belt land to be built on [under the LDF], but that equates to 85 per cent of the green belt land in Thornhill Lees.”

Addressing all the groups, Mr Pickles said: “I think there’s a maturity about what people have said. Clearly what you’re looking for is to have a say in this.

“There was on person who talked about not one per cent, but 85 per cent of greenbelt in their area which I thought was a very interesting point.”

The LDF plan sets how to create 22,470 homes and 122 hectares for employment across the district by 2028.

The council’s proposal has faced widespread opposition, with 7,279 formal objections made during a six-week representation period.

It is now being reviewed by a planning inspector who will make a recommendation to Mr Pickles.

Mr Lilley said: “It’s wait and see now. The representations are in. The planning inspector has been appointed. At least Eric has seen what it means to Dewsbury.”