A former Calderdale police station which doubled as a fictitious one in BBC television’s hit police drama Happy Valley will be turned into 19 bedsits as a large home of multiple occupancy.
Calderdale Council’s Planning Committee had rejected an earlier application to convert the former Sowerby Bridge Police Station at Station Road, Sowerby Bridge, into a HMO last year but approved a revised version when they met at Halifax Town Hall today (Tuesday, March 19).
Not all councillors were in agreement but after an amendment to go against planning officers’ recommendations and refuse the plans was rejected, a majority voted in favour of the development this time.
An agent for applicant WHM Properties intimated his client would appeal to the Planning Inspector if the plans were turned down and would be confident of winning, having made many alterations to the original proposals following the previous refusal.
Initially there had been uproar when first drafts of proposals made reference to a bail hostel, attracting 200 letters of objection, and despite the last application referencing students and young professionals as its target market for potential tenants, it was not enough to win councillors around and they raised concerns including the number of bedrooms, with 28 planned.
In the latest application, which only attracted seven letters of objection, four still assuming it would be a bail hostel, the number had been reduced to 19 bedsits, offering more space and facilities including more storage, and a caretaker’s flat.
The changes did enough to ally fears about the impact on the surrounding neighbourhood, which includes a doctor’s surgery, nursery and a leisure centre, and win enough support to be approved.
Ward Coun Mike Payne (Con, Sowerby Bridge) said he he had spoken to the applicant who was a reasonable person and had reduced the room numbers and made other changes after taking points raised at the previous hearing on board.
However, he still felt his objections to the plans – on grounds as to whether there was a need for an HMO, traffic concerns and safeguarding issues – were still valid.
The building was in a flood zone and it would change the flood risk for neighbouring properties, said Coun Payne, and there was a perennial parking issue already.
And he still had concerns over a report submitted by West Yorkshire Police’s Architectural Liaison Officer which said such premises could give rise to anti-social behaviour in areas where there were a lot of HMOs.
Officers said it was not the case that there were a lot of HMOs in Sowerby Bridge.
Coun Colin Peel (Con, Brighouse) said he still believed the proposals would harm the amenity of existing neighbours and proposed an amendment, seconded by Coun Paul Bellenger (Lib Dem, Greetland and Stainland), that the application be refused.
But Coun Carol Machell (Lab, Todmorden) said councillors had to be careful how the pictured potential residents.
“I find it impossible to support the amendment because it is implying the people who will use this accommodation will somehow cause harm, and it’s impossible to say that,” she said.
The amendment’s defeat meant the motion supporting officers’ recommendation the plan be approved, proposed by Coun Stephen Baines (Con, Northowram and Shelf) and seconded by
Coun David Kirton (Con, Hipperholme and Lightcliffe) went through.
Coun Kirton said: “The applicant has reduced the numbers from 28 to 19. I see no reason to refuse the application,” he said.