Wakefield Council could be forced to reconsider plan to buy historic golf house purchase for £5m traveller site extension

Senior councillors could be ordered to reconsider controversial plans to buy a historic house in order to build an extension to a traveller site in Wakefield.

By Tony Gardner
Monday, 25th July 2022, 1:32 pm
Updated Monday, 25th July 2022, 1:35 pm

It comes after a scrutiny committee has raised concerns that the plan to purchase the Old Golf House at Heath Common has gone ahead without proper public consultation.

There are also fears that the issue “could be seen as discrimination”.

Last week, Wakefield Council’s Cabinet approved the scheme which would allow for an extension to the existing traveller site off Doncaster Road, at a cost of more than £5m.

Wakefield Council's Cabinet could be ordered to reconsider controversial plans to buy a historic house in order to build an extension to a traveller site.

Members of the Council’s Climate Change and Environmental Wellbeing Overview and Scrutiny Committee will now meet on Thursday (July 28) to discuss whether they should ‘call-in’ the decision.

The committee has the power to refer the decision back to the Cabinet for reconsideration, setting out in writing the nature of its concerns.

Three members of the scrutiny committee have raised concerns over “insufficient consultation”.

A report states: “Members are concerned that this could:

The Old Golf House,on Heath Common

a) Affect community cohesion on what is currently a relatively trouble-free site.

b) Be seen as discrimination as travellers are classed as an ethnic minority, under the Equality Act 2010.”

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Councillor Darren Byford, Cabinet portfolio holder for regeneration, economic growth and property, has been invited to attend the meeting.

Heath Residents’ Association and Warmfield-Cum-Heath Parish Council have objected to the plan, accusing the Council of ‘bullying tactics’.Speaking at last week’s Cabinet meeting, Coun Byford said: “Officers have considered these representations and the advice is that there is suitable legal and evidential basis to proceed with this decision.

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

“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.

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

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.