Penny Appeal plans for Thornes Park campus buildings could cause 'irreversible damage'

Plans by a Wakefield charity to set up a call centre and offices within the grounds of Thornes Park could cause "irreversible damage", it's been claimed.

Tuesday, 16th November 2021, 5:35 pm
Updated Tuesday, 16th November 2021, 5:36 pm

The Penny Appeal has asked for permission to convert the old Wakefield College campus buildings within the park.

The charity, founded by Wakefield College alumni Adeem Younis, bought the campus in 2018.

But the Friends of Clarence, Holmfield and Thornes Parks (CHAT), which looks after the interests of all three adjoining green spaces, has strongly condemned the idea.

The Penny Appeal bought the campus from Wakefield College in 2018.

They say it would rob visitors of "peace and tranquility they seek while walking around the edge of a mini business park".

More than 170 people have objected to the plans, with many fearing they will draw lots of traffic and spoil the area, which combined is Wakefield's largest green space.

However, The Penny Appeal say bringing the buildings back into use will "restore vibrancy back to their community" and that leaving them empty is "wasted potential".

In their planning statement, the applicants said work "is currently taking place to allow the first floor of the building to be occupied by the Penny Appeal to carry out their charitable work.

The charity wants to run a call centre from the premises.

"This in the main will be in the form of offices and a call centre."

They added: "There is a 340-space car park available for future employees and visitors. Numbers visiting the site will be less than when the college was in operation; meaning the impact on highways should be neutral."

The application said work on the ground floor would create offices for the Bishop of Wakefield, the disabled charity Open Country and a local bridge club.

A cafe and a theatre are also included within the plans

Both Ian Deighton, from Friends of CHAT Parks and Wakefield West councillor Michael Graham have objected to the scheme.

But the charity has been criticised for being vague in its application, which if approved would give them a large degree of flexibility over how to use the office space.

The Penny Appeal said this was to save them the hassle of having to submit multiple "piecemeal" planning applications and allow it to serve a wide range of community groups.

But Ian Deighton, from Friends of CHAT Parks, said he feared the space could easily be converted into residential properties without further consent.

In his written objection on behalf of the group, he said: "This is a sensitive location, the surrounding park as an amenity could be irreversibly damaged by certain uses which would be allowed under (this application).

"Shrouding the call centre for a major multi national business with minor community uses should not result in a planning approval for inappropriate development, the result of which would cause irreversible damage to a major public asset in Wakefield – our park!"

Mr Deighton also suggested the plans could generate "large volumes of traffic" on the access road that runs between the skate park and children's play area within Thornes Park.

Wakefield West councillor Michael Graham said he was also strongly opposed to the application.

He told the Local Democracy Reporting Service (LDRS): "It’s a green space and it needs to be for the community and the people of Wakefield.

"We don’t want businesses and offices there. Looking at this it could end up being a business park.

"It’s just not what we want and it would ruin Thornes Park."

Set up in 2009, The Penny Appeal delivers aid, water and food to people living in impoverished countries.

The Penny Appeal said then that it was "horrified" by the claims.

In 2017, when Wakefield College still owned the Thornes Park campus, plans to redevelop the site into housing and a care facility were abandoned after a public backlash.

Local Democracy Reporting Service