Wakefield Council accused of ‘bullying tactics’ by Heath residents as plan to buy old golf house to build £5m traveller site is approved

A controversial plan to buy a former golf house building to allow for a £5m extension to a traveller site in Wakefield has been approved by senior councillors.

By Tony Gardner
Tuesday, 19th July 2022, 2:20 pm
Updated Tuesday, 19th July 2022, 5:41 pm

Wakefield Council’s Cabinet gave the go-ahead to the scheme which will involve the purchase of the Old Golf House on Heath Common.

The proposal has been met with strong opposition from local residents, who have accused the local authority of using “bullying tactics”.

Heath Residents’ Association (HRA) and Warmfield-cum-Heath Parish Council sent letters of objection to Cabinet members ahead of today’s meeting.

A controversial plan to buy The Old Golf House, on Heath Common, to allow for a £5m extension to a traveller site in Wakefield has been approved by senior councillors.

A letter from HRA states: “Heath Residents Association is calling on anyone who has ever enjoyed the Heath to join it in resisting the bullying tactics of this local authority to destroy the Heath – one of the jewels in Wakefield’s crown – and thus reduce the opportunities for people from across the region and beyond to enjoy this clean, green, open space for their own mental health and well-being.”

A letter from Warmfield-cum-Heath Parish Council states: “As a parish council, we have carried out surveys, had discussions and interviewed people within the community and we have found virtually no support for this scheme.

“In our small parish we already have a number of private sites and the official Wakefield site, we feel we are now being bullied into yet another site that removes common land and historic landmarks relevant to this area.”

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A controversial plan to buy The Old Golf House, on Heath Common, to allow for a £5m extension to a traveller site in Wakefield has been approved by senior councillors.

Darren Byford, Cabinet member for regeneration, economic growth and property, told the meeting: “Officers have considered these representations and the advice is that there is suitable legal and evidential basis to proceed with this decision today.

“A full, detailed response will be made, particularly to residents at Heath.”

Coun Byford continued: “There is a wealth of evidence to show that travelling families who are not able to access a permanent site suffer from poor health and low life expectancy.

“This proposal does not seek to avoid proper scrutiny of loss of common land or greenbelt land.

The Old Golf House when it was home to Wakefield Golf Club.

“This will continue to be considered in public in accordance with the legal framework and national planning policy.”

Coun Matthew Morley, Cabinet member for planning and highways, said: “As a council, we have a statutory duty to look after all our residents.

“It’s a statutory duty – we have got to do it. I welcome this report.”

Wakefield Council has already backed the plan to extend the city’s largest publicly-run traveller site to cater for growing demand.

Heath Common could be extended to 61 permanent pitches, up from its current number of 38, at a cost of £5.8m.

The land to be developed is currently subject to a covenant prohibiting development.

The Cabinet report states “the acquisition of a property in close proximity to the Heath Traveller site” could avoid the need for a public inquiry.Heath Common was the original home of Wakefield Golf Club, which opened in 1892.

The clubhouse building opened in October 1897.

Wakefield Golf Club relocated to Woodthorpe in 1911 but the original clubhouse building remains as a residential property.