Penny Appeal charity wins fight to open business centre in Thornes Park

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An international charity has won an appeal to be allowed to open a business centre in historic parkland.

Penny Appeal has been given permission to expand its premises in Thornes Park, Wakefield, in a decision by the Planning Inspectorate.

Last year, councillors rejected a planning application which included a call centre to be open round the clock in the Grade II listed park.

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The plan was opposed by more than 200 residents and local councillors who claimed it would be “devastating” for the community.

- More than 200 people objected to Penny Appeal's application to build a business centre in Thornes Park, Wakefield. Picture taken in July2022.- More than 200 people objected to Penny Appeal's application to build a business centre in Thornes Park, Wakefield. Picture taken in July2022.
- More than 200 people objected to Penny Appeal's application to build a business centre in Thornes Park, Wakefield. Picture taken in July2022.

Penny Appeal, founded in 2009, delivers aid to impoverished countries.

The Wakefield-based charity sought “flexible” planning permission to transform the former Wakefield College campus site to include offices and community facilities.

Wakefield Council’s planning and highway committee said the project was “unsustainable” and “did not meet community needs”.

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Councillors also said the scheme was “incompatible with the safe and successful operation of Thornes Park.”

Ian Deighton, chair of Friends of Clarence, Holmfield and Thornes Parks (CHaT) protesting against the proposal in July 2022.Ian Deighton, chair of Friends of Clarence, Holmfield and Thornes Parks (CHaT) protesting against the proposal in July 2022.
Ian Deighton, chair of Friends of Clarence, Holmfield and Thornes Parks (CHaT) protesting against the proposal in July 2022.

The decision was overturned on Monday (September 18) following a site visit by an inspector appointed by the secretary of state for communities and local government.

The inspector’s report says there is “little evidence” that the scheme would “cause harm to the enjoyment or use of the park.”

The document states that the character of the park could be protected by imposing conditions.

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It continues: “In these circumstances the enjoyment of the park and the amenity of it could be safeguarded.”

The report adds: “The potential for 24 hour opening hours for the operation of the premises, I consider an unlikely scenario. However, without restriction this would be possible.”

Other conditions include Penny Appeal being required to submit a car park management plan.

Restrictions have also been put in place to prevent outdoor artificial lighting and advertisements on buildings.

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The charity has made a separate application against the council for costs.

The Friends of Clarence, Holmfield and Thornes Parks (CHaT) opposed the original scheme and subsequent appeal.

In April, group chair Ian Deighton said: “The application is so vague we feel as though it could be just used for anything.

“It would be a disaster for the amenity of Thornes Park. It is the wrong type of application.”

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Wakefield Civic Society wrote to the Planning Inspectorate claiming the plan would “undermine the fundamental character” of the city’s most important park.

The charity bought the buildings five years ago and said the plan would be “mutually beneficial” to themselves and to park users.

The scheme includes retaining existing theatre space on the site.

It was also proposed that the site could be occupied by the Bishop of Wakefield, the charity Open Country and Wakefield Bridge Club.

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Speaking at last year’s meeting, Warren McCoy, representing the charity, said: “Flexible use gives scope for local businesses.

“Penny Appeal would be the primary occupant. The charity is the key focus for the application.”