Homes plan for Wakefield border hanging in the balance

Green belt land in Chidswell is under threat of development. (d311a323)
Green belt land in Chidswell is under threat of development. (d311a323)

Plans for hundreds of homes and an industrial development on the border of Gawthorpe and Chidswell are up in the air after an independent inspector raised concerns about the scheme.

Kirklees Council’s Local Development Framework (LDF) included plans for 500 homes and 35 hectares of employment land off Leeds Road.

The controversial proposals were submitted for government approval in April, despite thousands of objections and protest marches.

Inspector Roland Punshon is yet to wade through the 7,279 formal objections raised by local people – but he has already flagged up potential stumbling blocks.

In letters to the council, published last week, he voiced concerns about whether the number of homes proposed in the document would meet demand and why the council wanted to use green belt land when other land was available.

He said it was also “not clear what, if any, co-operation” there had been with neighbouring authorities when drawing up the LDF.

The comments have been welcomed by Chidswell Action Group, which began its protests against the plans in 2011 with a march near the site.

Group chairman Rod Lilley said the inspector’s comments were “everything we had been saying”.

“We’re certainly not cracking champagne open yet as we don’t know enough about what’s going to happen with the LDF,” he said.

“But there are obviously a lot of flaws with it and we welcome these comments from the inspector.”

The group is concerned about the impact the development would have on green belt land.

And when the plans were first announced, councillors in Ossett and Gawthorpe said they were concerned about extra traffic it would generate.

The Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, Eric Pickles, visited the Chidswell site last month to talk to various campaigners about their experience of trying to influence local planning policies.

Mr Lilley said: “We put all of our concerns to him, and we can only hope he will take them into account.”

Political rows were sparked in Kirklees after the Labour Party claimed the LDF had been withdrawn in response to the inspector’s feedback.

But days later when the letters were published, the council said no firm decision had been made.

A spokeswoman said: “The council is currently considering its options.”

She added that the plan could only be withdrawn following a full council vote.