Wakefield charity's application to build ’24-hour call centre’ in historic Thornes Park rejected

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A charity’s application to build a ’24-hour call centre’ in Wakefield’s historic Thornes Park has been rejected.

Wakefield Council’s planning and highways committee turned down an application by the Penny Appeal after the scheme received more than 200 objections from residents.

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

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Penny Appeal, founded in 2009 to deliver aid to impoverished countries and victims of domestic abuse, had hoped to use the site as its headquarters.

More than 200 residents objected to the plan by Penny Appeal to build a  ’24-hour call centre’ in Thornes Park.More than 200 residents objected to the plan by Penny Appeal to build a  ’24-hour call centre’ in Thornes Park.
More than 200 residents objected to the plan by Penny Appeal to build a ’24-hour call centre’ in Thornes Park.

Members of the park’s Friends group opposed the plan, claiming that the application was “vague” and could pave the way for a 24-hour call centre being established in the park.

Speaking at the meeting, Ian Deighton, chair of Friends of Clarence, Holmfield and Thornes Parks (CHaT), told committee members: “This is a massive decision that you are taking.

“In this application you need to be clear about what you are approving and the damage you are doing to the park.

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“It could mean up to 100 businesses on this site. You can’t possibly know.

The former Wakefield College campus in Thornes Park.The former Wakefield College campus in Thornes Park.
The former Wakefield College campus in Thornes Park.

“Once business users get established it could change the nature of the park.

“We are likely to lose the park as we know it. Once it is gone you cannot replace it.”

Mr Deighton said the plan could also create a danger to park users from an increase in traffic accessing the site via a private road.

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He also told councillors that it would put an end to public events in the park.

He said: “It would mean the Wakefield fireworks display and vintage vehicle events would not be able to happen.”

“Today you could be ending the long history of the park.

“I urge you to refuse this application.”

Earlier this week, members of CHaT staged a demonstration at the park ahead of a site visit by planning councillors.

Local councillor Hilary Mitchell also addressed the meeting, saying: “This is a park. This is what it is for.

“It will damage the amenity of the existing park.

“I think it would be disastrous.”

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Warren McCoy, representing the Penny Appeal, told councillors that the scheme would benefit community groups as well as businesses.

He said: “Flexible use gives scope for local businesses.

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

Councillors voted in favour of rejecting the application on the grounds that the project was “unsustainable and does not meet community needs”.

Other reasons for rejecting the application included the impact the business would have on the character of the park and that it was “incompatible with the safe and successful operation of Thornes Park.”

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After the meeting, Michael Graham, councillor for Wakefield West ward, said: “It was agreed that the site is totally unsuitable for this sort of operation.

“Common sense prevails.

“Thornes Park holds many memories for generations of people across Wakefield and we must always fight to ensure we are enhancing the offer for residents, not taking away from it.

“Local people know what is best for Wakefield and once again people power has won the day.”