Council accused of breaching historic covenant with plan to build social housing in much-loved Castleford parkland

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Wakefield Council has been accused of breaking a 99-year-old legal agreement over plans for a housing development in a public park.

Details of a covenant dating back to 1924 were revealed at a meeting to consider an application to build homes on the site of Castleford’s former swimming pool.

Castleford resident Paul Carr produced the document as he urged councillors to reject the scheme.

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Mr Carr told members of the council’s planning and highways committee: “That land was actually gifted to the people of Castleford.

Castleford resident Paul Carr accused Wakefield Council of breaching an historic covenant over plans to build 69 affordable homes on the site of the town's old swimming pool.Castleford resident Paul Carr accused Wakefield Council of breaching an historic covenant over plans to build 69 affordable homes on the site of the town's old swimming pool.
Castleford resident Paul Carr accused Wakefield Council of breaching an historic covenant over plans to build 69 affordable homes on the site of the town's old swimming pool.

“It was gifted to the people of Castleford in 1924 for the sole use of recreation.”

The scheme includes demolishing the old council-run pool, which closed in 2017, to make way for 69 affordable homes.

Properties would then be built on a 1.9 hectare site which includes a section of Savile Park.

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Mr Carr read from the historic document, which states: “No buildings of any kind shall at any time hereafter be erected on the said pieces or parcels of land…except such as are required for the purposes of an athletic or recreation club.”

Councillors have approved plans to demolish Castleford'sformer swimming pool to make way for 69 affordable homes.Councillors have approved plans to demolish Castleford'sformer swimming pool to make way for 69 affordable homes.
Councillors have approved plans to demolish Castleford'sformer swimming pool to make way for 69 affordable homes.

Mr Carr continued: “The park is solely for recreation. Not for housing. Simple as. It’s a park for use by the people of Castleford.

“I agree, demolish the swimming pool. But it is a park.

“How can Wakefield District Housing (WDH) be given special dispensation to build the properties on somewhere that has got a covenant from 1924. How can this be quashed?

“Where does it stop?

“Do we demolish Queens Park and Smawthorne Park?

“We have lost our hospital, our maternity home, our pubs and three churches are going.

“Now we are going to lose another park.”

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Darren Byford, chair of the committee, said the document was “not a material planning consideration”.

Coun Byford said: “We have no jurisdiction at this committee over that strip of land.

“I’m sorry, but that is not for us to determine.

“Any covenant on any piece of land, which may or may not be in place, does not stop the planning committee from giving permission.

“That is for a future determination to be made by others.”

Coun Tony Wallis asked Mr Carr: “Do you not think there is a need for affordable housing within the area?”

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He replied: “No I don’t. The affordable housing we have got is sufficient.”

Coun Samantha Harvey asked: “I understand this was drafted in 1924. In February next year it will be 100 years old. Communities change. Where do you get the information to be so certain that Castleford does not need more affordable housing?”

Mr Carr said: “I have got 20 years of experience working in housing.

“I have worked for Wakefield Council and I have worked for other organisations.

“Castleford is going to become one big housing estate.

“That is all we are going to have.

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“We are going to have just houses, upon houses, upon houses.”

Coun Kevin Swift asked: “Is there a need, in your experience, for more public open space in that area?”

Mr Carr said: “Yes. It is used every single day for people to walk their dogs or jog around or to exercise in. It’s ours. So why should it become housing?

“If you come down and sit on Aketon Road and count the number of people that are going in on a weekend, it’s unbelievable.”

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Planning consultant Michael Powell spoke in favour of the application.

He said: “I have heard Mr Carr’s representation but, as I see it, it is a covenant issue and a separate legal matter.”

He added: “We feel we have a really high quality proposal which is recommended for approval.

“There are no technical reasons to withdraw planning permission.”

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The development includes a range of two, three and four-bed detached, semi-detached and terraced properties.

The committee voted to approve the scheme by a majority of five councillors to two.

After the meeting, Mr Carr said he is considering seeking legal advice over the covenant.

He told the Local Democracy Reporting Service: “I feel that the people of Castleford have been let down and find it frustrating and quite upsetting that this decision has been made.

“I wish more people in Castleford we aware of this covenant because I’m sure they would be angry that our assets can just be taken away without being consulted.”