Town’s tourism is under threat

Copley Lane Copley Halifax

Sowerby Bridge is a tourist town in jeopardy - thanks to Calderdale Council.

I write in support of your article “Tourist town needs a proper gateway” (Courier, March 19), referring to the community group, Sowerby Bridge in Bloom’s statement: “We want to put Sowerby Bridge on the map as a place for tourism and a great environment”.

On the day of publication (a Saturday), we spoke to many visitors in the Sowerby Bridge marina area, visitors who had deliberately come to both the Copley Valley and to Sowerby Bridge because they like it - as it is.

The Copley Valley and Sowerby Bridge areas offer a rural retreat in the valley and a small, charming, friendly town - a completely different atmosphere and environment to that which people often need to escape from (the hustle and bustle of everyday life)!

These visitors came not only from within Calderdale, but from as far afield as Scarborough, the Lake District and Leicester, Ely, Middlewich, Shaw, Urmston, Oldham, Blackburn, Bury, Bingley, Liversedge, West Bowling, Hartshead, and Fixby.

The reason that I know this is that these same visitors have all signed objection letters to Calderdale Council’s proposals to destroy the very environment which is currently attracting so many visitors to Sowerby Bridge and to the Copley Valley - their “vanity project” Copley Valley “Fantasy Island” development scheme.

As they told us, why would they want to come to visit an area of industrial sheds, several hundred houses, with a hotel, cafes, restaurants, etc, thrown in amongst - which is exactly what many of them have come to escape from!

These visitors come to the Copley Valley to go for peaceful walks along the canal-bank and along the river-bank, to cycle, to jog, to fish, or to peacefully travel along the canal on their barges and take in the scenery and marvel at the wildlife; we have otters, heron, kingfisher, deer, bats, salmon (yes, the salmon have returned to our river Calder!) etc in our valley.

Contrary to the opinion of one previous writer, who said that we, as a group, had never put forward our own alternative plans for the valley, we have, on several occasions spoken both with our own Councillors (Stephen Gow and Pauline Nash, and Andrew Feather) – plus the Director of Economy and Environment, Ian Gray, to ask that the tourism and leisure opportunities of this valley are enhanced to encourage yet more people to come to our area, so that this will, in turn, bring more business into Sowerby Bridge, and regenerate the town as a result of increased tourism.

We have suggested the following: a heritage and arts and craft centre to be built at the Sterne Mills site, plus a music and drama centre, where stage-plays and musical performances can take place.

There would only be building on the Sterne Mills site. We would ask that the leisure facilities are enhanced to provide for a canoeing centre of excellence, archery, orienteering, rowing boats on the canal, designated picnic areas, in addition to angling, and organised walks from the Copley Valley along a heritage trail through to Sowerby Bridge.

There are many ways in which the valley can be enhanced, but still remain the wildlife corridor which it is, and which it should remain - as this is the heritage that we need to leave for our children.

This Council has already let down the people of Sowerby Bridge by no longer considering the Holmes Road and town centre developments which were promised. They should not add insult to injury by now destroying the very tourism which helps to keep alive those shops and businesses in Sowerby Bridge that need those customers. Are the Calderdale Council planners so short-sighted that they cannot see that their plans will “bite the hand that feeds” Sowerby Bridge tourism?

Good luck to your group – Sowerby Bridge in Bloom. With Calderdale Council in control of your destiny, you (and the rest of our community that suffers also at their hands) will have to live with the consequences of their planning “skills”!!

Diane Wade

Leader – Copley Valley Environment

Protection Group