MP hits out at Calderdale Council for missing chance to improve infrastructure with 'levelling up' cash

Calder Valley MP Craig Whittaker claims Calderdale Council has missed the opportunity to use “levelling up” cash made available by the government to tackle infrastructure issues being revealed by the draft Local Plan.

By John Greenwood - Local Democracy Reporter
Thursday, 24th June 2021, 10:28 am
Updated Thursday, 24th June 2021, 10:30 am
Calder Valley MP Craig Whittaker
Calder Valley MP Craig Whittaker

He told the third phase of hearings into the plan the funding would have enabled the council to tackle a pressure point like Hipperholme crossroads ahead of development which would load the junction with extra traffic.

Instead the council were applying for funds to “plough on” with Clifton Enterprise Zone which had lost funding from elsewhere, he said.

Conservative MP Mr Whittaker followed up his comments at the virtual hearings by rebuking the council on the issue again at Prime Minister’s Question Time on June 23, with PM Boris Johnson saying he hoped the council was listening.

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The issue of the crossroads at Hipperholme arose in discussion about proposals to remove the nearby former Crosslee factory site as employment land and redesignating its status as mixed use including some housing.

Mr Whittaker told the hearing his issue was not with Crosslee as a site but with the council, which he said had no plans to upgrade infrastructure, for which the government funds would have been perfect to deal with at what he said was the 26th most congested junction in Yorkshire.

“Like all my submissions, it is about infrastructure and until Calderdale deals with this in a serious way, congestion, air quality and the misery here will not just go away,” he said.

Overseeing the hearings, Planning Inspector Katie Child asked whether loss of the site for industry to mixed use was justified.

The council’s Planning lead Richard Seaman said key findings of a report indicated an industrial agent had marketed the Crosslee site but there had been little demand, partly due to its distance from the M62.

Site promoter Mike Dove said it had been continuously marketed since late 2019.

But Julie Bullen, of Woodhouse Residents Association, said they believed overall its loss was not justified, the marketing had taken place during the COVID-19 pandemic and it seemed absurd removing a brownfield site for employment while considering removing protected green belt land in Brighouse.

Mark Eagland, planning lead for Crosslee said mixed use designation enabled employment which they were proposing in an outline planning application for the site.

Mr Seaman said he did not think the outline application had been registered yet but understood it would encompass a food store, retail units, a retirement village, care accomodation and 130 homes.

Tony Perryman of Clifton Neighbourhood Village Forum said the site was flat and already had utilities whereas the council was looking to build factories on the proposed employment zone at Clifton, representing considerable cost and loss of green field land.

“I am struggling to see why this should be developed when there is a brownfield site readily available for employment in the area,” he said.

Mr Seaman said the Crosslee site would provide some smaller units for businesses who were less dependent on M62 access rather than them being attracted to the business park at Clifton.

The “weekly shop” sized supermarket would reduce the number of people driving out of Hipperholme to do their shopping, he said.

Replying to Ms Child, council highways officer Andrew Dmoch said development would generate some extra traffic but it would not have a significant impact.

George Pitt of the Hipperholme and Lightcliffe Planning Group, disagreed: “The belittling of the impact of the amount of traffic that might be developed by this development I don’t agree with at all,” he said.

Coun Steven Leigh (Con, Ryburn) and Anthony Rae, of Calderdale Friends of the Earth, both argued that whether or not congestion would be exacerbated was an issue that should be determined in the Local Plan not decided later on.

Mr Dmoch said the council had looked at cumulative impact on the crossroads and was comfortable it was not likely to cause problems.

“We appreciate it is a busy junction, but we don’t pluck these things out of the air and we have looked very closely at the impact.

“It is a lower threshold than would constitute severe impact,” he said.