LETTERS: Thornes Park is the priority not land values

Newspaper: Wakefield Express.'Story: Thornes Park college campus is going to be up for sale.'Photo date: 08/10/15'Picture Ref: AB307b1015
Newspaper: Wakefield Express.'Story: Thornes Park college campus is going to be up for sale.'Photo date: 08/10/15'Picture Ref: AB307b1015

As your previous correspondent Peter Bancroft said in his letter last month, it all seems to have gone very quiet about building in Thornes Park.

Unfortunately, that doesn’t mean that they’ve gone away, and it certainly doesn’t mean that we can be complacent about the future of that part of the park owned by Wakefield College

Firstly, there’s nothing inevitable about the college moving out of the Park. Abandoning Thornes Park is an exercise in free will on the college’s part, perhaps driven by an optimistic view of how much they can get for the land. A lot of people - many with a good practical appreciation of the issues - actually think it would make more sense for them to stay.

There should be no illusions about the very real difficulty of finding something to replace the college premises that fits in with the park, but that very definitely doesn’t mean settling for the best of a bad job. As custodians of the park, the council has a clear public duty, and the decision not to give active support to any unsatisfactory development has been previously spelled out in these columns by the council leader Coun Peter Box and that remains the position.

The college also has responsibilities as a public body. Firstly, any decision about leaving the park should take into account the future of the land and buildings they own, and secondly, if they do decide to leave, the costs of looking after the vacant premises are something they should take account of in their planning.

Last year the college’s nominated development partner Panacea undertook a period of prior public engagement in line with government guidance. Lots of people attended those meetings last September and October and were promised two things - one that they would circulate the records of what everybody said at the six meetings to everybody who left an email address, and two, that they would come back for a further round of public engagement before they proceeded with any specific proposal.

As local councillors we were holding off until they moved on these two points (or at least until they released a record of what was said) We had attended all the Panacea meetings, but we had held off holding our own meetings with local people, until after there was more to talk about.

But time is now marching on and, as elected representatives, we will be reopening our own dialogue with the community.

To reiterate, the park is the primary consideration and there should be no development there (whether it’s housing or anything else) that doesn’t fit in.

Proper planning principles are what counts - not land values.

The council itself has made that clear and so have we as local councillors.

Hilary Mitchell, Ryan Case, and Kevin Swift Councillors for Lupset and Thornes