CIVIC SOCIETY NEWS
CIVIC SOCIETY NEWS
How controversial Castle Hill plan decision could put other ancient monuments at risk of ‘inappropriate’ developments
Huddersfield Civic Society believes the decision to allow a restaurant and bedrooms on top of Castle Hill may set a dangerous precedent for other ancient monument sites to be spoiled by inappropriate developments.
We have battled against a planning application for the development – which will also include a visitors’ centre with toilets – and asked for the plan to be decided on by the Government after it was passed by Kirklees councillors last October … but the Government has now refused to get involved.
This means the application will now go ahead unless it is vetoed at the 11th hour by Historic England - the commission which oversees historic buildings and scheduled monuments in England - by refusing to give consent for the development. Huddersfield Civic Society (HCS) will continue to lobby Historic England to refuse that consent and it’s thought that Historic England may not come to a decision for three months or so.
HCS’ call-in hopes were dashed in a letter to Kirklees Council on behalf of Housing, Communities and Local Government minister Robert Jenrick which states: “The Secretary of State has decided not to call in this application. He is content that it should be determined by the local planning authority.”
But HCS believes this is setting a dangerous precedent as one of the reasons the minister would call-in an application and make a decision on it was if it “could have significant effects beyond their immediate locality.”
HCS believes this is the case and fears that if the Castle Hill development is allowed, other ancient monuments could be at risk with the Government refusing to look at these often highly controversial applications and leaving the decision to local councils instead.
HCS secretary Martin Kilburn says: “There remains significant concern that approval of the Castle Hill development establishes a precedent which will mean any local authority can approve a major development within the green belt and curtilage of both listed and scheduled monuments anywhere in the country.
“When this is coupled with a size of development which is accepted as being far greater than that needed simply in order to provide private funding of required public facilities, we struggle to understand why this does not fall within the identified remit of the Secretary of State.
“This is why HCS is both deeply disappointed and troubled by the decision of Robert Jenrick’s department not to call-in the planning decision on Castle Hill.
“Our call-in was based on a desire by the society and many residents of Kirklees to avoid wholly inappropriate development on one of the most important green belt locations in Kirklees and to protect one of the north of England’s most important heritage sites.
"Current national policy has specific provisions to protect such sites which last October’s planning decision failed to apply appropriately.
“Declining our call-in request flies in the face of current and proposed planning policy stated to provide protection for the green belt and protection for environmental and heritage assets – to include continuing to protect our treasured countryside and historic places.
“The grounds given for the decision are based on the contention that the Government is committed to giving more power to councils and communities to make their own decisions on planning issues and believes planning decisions should be made at the local level wherever possible.
“This decision appears to us to give tacit approval for wholesale breaches of national green belt policy.
“Despite the lack of call-in request, the development still cannot go ahead without Scheduled Monument Consent from Historic England. The level of our concerns regarding the proposed development are such that we will continue to lobby Historic England.”
The history of Castle Hill stretches back 4,000 years. It began as an Iron Age hill fort before becoming a Norman castle and then a medieval hunting lodge. Grade-II listed Victoria Tower – built to celebrate Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee of 1897 and finished in 1899 - is in green belt and can be seen for miles. It is a Scheduled Ancient Monument and a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSI) in recognition of the range and variety of its flora and fauna.
Why this huge new house is setting a very dangerous national precedent in a Huddersfield Conservation Area
A new house being built in one of Huddersfield’s premier Conservation Areas is setting a very dangerous precedent and may have national significance.
Huddersfield Civic Society was against the original application to build the detached house on Kaffir Road in Edgerton but a new application has now gone in to massively increase the size of the home even though work is underway.
We are strongly objecting to this new application as there is no precedent for adding such a large new building into the Edgerton Conservation Area and, if Kirklees Council allows it, we will be looking for it to be called in by the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government as the Society believes this application has national significance regarding the very purpose of designating a conservation area.
To read our full objection please click here.
Having had to cancel had to cancel our 2020 guided walks programme we now hope that a 2021 programme of walks will be able to take place from summer 2021. Keep a lookout for further news.
However, a number of Virtual Trails, produced by Kirklees Libraries in partnership with Discover Huddersfield, first broadcast at the end of 2020 and early 2021 are still available to watch. These are:
Each trail will also be available as a stand-alone virtual walk on Google Earth. This can be accessed via a link provided underneath the YouTube video.
People have been urged to get involved with a project to make a giant cuckoo in Huddersfield as part of a worldwide project to highlight endangered species.
On Saturday, May 22, 2021, people from all over the world will create images of endangered animals and plants using clothing donated by local communities. The giant images will be placed on the ground and photographed from the sky, bringing together a myriad of pictures from Taiwan to Brazil and from the USA to New Zealand.
The 20-metre x 20-metre image will be part of a global project called withNature2020 devised by British artist Emma K Thomas who came up with this idea in response to the extinction crisis. It has been developed by volunteers all over the world.
All the countries involved will be choosing an animal or plant at risk of extinction in their local area. In Kirklees, an image of the endangered cuckoo will be created in a field by young artists from The Children’s Art School which is based in Holmfirth.
Local individuals, communities and schools can get involved in donating items of clothing in the colours needed to complete the Kirklees Cuckoo by choosing one, or many squares, from a picture of the artwork. If you’d like to get involved, please email email@example.com using the subject heading withNature2020 or, alternatively, register for an information meeting in mid April.
A Zoom get together for schools and community groups interested in donating cloth and/or clothes to the Kirklees Cuckoo artwork will be held on Wednesday, April 14, from 4pm to 4.45pm.
To join the meeting, register by clicking here.
HCS Members’ Update
Thank you to everyone who has renewed their annual HCS membership for 2021. We will maintain our efforts on your behalf to promote and enhance the heritage, vitality and regeneration of the town over the next 12 months.
7.00pm Tuesday 30 March: Huddersfield Civic Society AGM.
You will have received papers for the AGM in the past week. I hope you will be able to join us – the meeting should not take more than an hour. Here are the details for logging in to the virtual meeting:
Join from PC, Mac, Linux, iOS or Android:
Access it by clicking here.
7.00pm Tuesday 20 April: New Manchester Buildings – the good, the average, the ugly. A zoom tour with Jonathan Schofield.
Almost 100 people logged on for the truly inspiring presentation by Nathan Cornish from Urban Splash for our joint annual lecture with the University of Huddersfield.
Our zoom ‘tour’, led by one of Manchester’s most successful guides, will be a fitting complement to this, providing a chance to see and the good and not so good developments that are rapidly transforming the dynamic centre of the city.
Booking details to follow.
Two planning matters have dominated our discussions and highlighted a number of serious concerns over the past few weeks:
Castle Hill Restaurant with Rooms and Event Venue
HCS Committee Secretary, Martin Kilburn has been relentless in pursuing the HCS request for the application to be called in by the Secretary of State following Kirklees Council’s approval of the application, as reported in previous updates.
Incredibly, as a result of numerous emails and Freedom of Information requests Martin received a message from Historic England’s Inspector of Ancient Monuments for the NE and Yorkshire at the end of February stating: “We have not been officially informed that the application was referred to MCHLG and we have had no contact from their case work staff.”
Further pressure has, at last, resulted in this response from the case officer from the MCHLG: “I have taken over this planning case from my colleague Chris Bazley-Rose and note your email to Martin Kilburn regarding the above application. I confirm that MHCLG are still considering this case and would welcome your comments regarding the proposal.”
Martin’s request for call-in on behalf of HCS, was submitted in early November 2020 - that’s over 4 months ago. It was just last week the case officer contacted Historic England whose responsibility it is to ensure the protection of such monuments!
Former Kirklees College Site
Equally worrying was the decision by Kirklees Strategic Planning Committee to approve proposals on the former Kirklees College site. Watching the debate, I was very concerned at the way officers recommended approval, emphasising the difficulties the Asset Management Company, who own the site, had in making the development viable and the overall ‘public benefit’ gained from approving the scheme.
Let’s be clear, the site is an eyesore and the listed buildings including the 2* former Infirmary have been left deteriorating and subject to vandalism. Looking at the approval, the most likely part to be developed is the Lidl supermarket, described by one councillor as ‘looking like a cowshed’.
What is, perhaps, most disturbing is that the officer’s report actually states: “As a result, no funds have been allocated to undertake the conversion works other than to make the building wind and water-tight.”
This means there is no clear phasing for the refurbishment of these historically important buildings, the residential development at the northern part of the site, which has also been criticised, is in outline only, leaving a supermarket of questionable design being the only ‘public benefit’ to be realised with some confidence. Ironically, should Lidl move in it is likely to vacate its present building which includes the frontage of the former Grand Picture Theatre/Ivanhoes, leaving yet another vacant and visible site on the ring road.
Other Planning Issues
We deal as well as we can with other planning applications and enquires that may be of interest or concern, especially those in Conservation Areas (Huddersfield has 11 designated areas) and work affecting listed buildings. Over the past month issues have varied from the conversion of vacant commercial space into small flats to concerns regarding the historic pottery kiln at Salendine Nook.
If you live in a Conservation Area and would like to help us comment on applications that may be of concern, please let us know. We really do need support in these areas of work.
HCS Consultation with the Local Authority
Our varied workload brings us into weekly contact with Kirklees officers, ranging from highway engineers, conservation officers, regeneration officers (especially in response to Blueprint and Heritage Action Zone issues) and other council services.
While we hope to be seen as critical friends with the council and value efforts made by officers to engage HCS in consultations and updates, we have certain issues and concerns, particularly in relation to the following:
Large housing sites (see Examiner article, https://www.examinerlive.co.uk/news/west-yorkshire-news/dont-risk-costly-appeals-turning-20092428).
Before Christmas we responded in detail to the Quality Places consultation about which we have heard no more. It is increasingly worrying that public concerns regarding developments may sometimes be set aside against the need to meet targets set down in the Local Plan.
Conservation Areas (Edgerton in particular) where there is a gradual attrition of key characteristics which, in the case of Edgerton, appear contrary to the CA Appraisal.
Conversions - mainly town centre - to convert commercial premises to residential. On the surface something to support but what we are seeing is a growing number of minimum standard flats which are of questionable quality. However, we know the Secretary of State for Housing, Robert Jenrick, is reviewing Permitted Development Rights PDR rights making it easier for such developments to take place without the need for planning approval.
Vacant listed buildings - St. Andrews Church, Leeds Road; Newsome Mills; Oakes School and (obviously) the former infirmary (see above), and the fact that they are being left to deteriorate, subject to vandalism with developers then claiming conversion is no longer viable. Developers have robust methods for valuing buildings and the risks associated with their conversion and should be subject to stringent enforcement if they are left empty and vulnerable.
Local centres. While the town centre has suffered from decline, some local centres have thrived with an increasing number of shops, eateries and footfall. Each area has its own problems including congestion and problems relating to inadequate infrastructure, parking facilities and active travel. Even though residents are often as concerned about their local centres as they are about the town centre, few plans appear to exist to provide an overview about how future development should be handled.
Practically, we neither have the capacity nor can we hope to engage officers in all these issues immediately but we will attempt to raise some of these issues with key officers over the coming year.
West Yorkshire Combined Authority
From May onwards we will have a Mayor and a "council" (the Combined Authority) for the whole of West Yorkshire. Even though decisions are being made that affect everyone, at the moment there isn't a way for small organisations and active individual people from across the region to get together.
HCS member Andrew Wilson from Same Skies, the regional democracy think tank for West Yorkshire, is organising an event on April 7th, 6pm-7pm, bringing people together to talk, share knowledge and learn about the Mayoral election and the West Yorkshire Combined Authority.
There is no doubt that Kirklees is already seeking to secure resources from the WYCA, particularly for significant infrastructure projects and HCS would support the need to ensure funds are not prioritised on Leeds alone. However, chasing the money should not result in Kirklees Council disregarding local views and concerns (such as have already surfaced with proposals for the A629 Halifax Road and the impact on Edgerton Conservation Area).
If Same Skies can bring a wide enough range of people together, it might carry some weight in future decisions.
Should you be interested in attending, this is the registration for zoom:
Former Huddersfield Examiner Head of Content Andy Hirst has now officially taken on the role of Website Editor and has already helped ensure news, events and other information is being regularly updated. We welcome your comments either to our website or on Twitter @CivicSocietyHD.
Huddersfield Railway Station featured on the Yesterday channel programme, ‘The Architecture the Railways Built’ which has provided a fascinating glimpse into a variety of railway buildings across Britain and abroad. The programme, at 8.00pm on Tuesday March 16, focused on the station clock as well as visiting the art deco Midland Hotel at Morecambe, beautifully restored 10 years ago by Urban Splash.
And, if you are interested in modern architecture, you can join an event, Brutal North: An Exploration of Brutalist Buildings in the North of England at 7.30pm, Thursday 18 March, co-hosted by Wakefield and Bradford Civic Societies and Leeds Civic Trust. Tickets are free and open to all through: https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/brutal-north-an-exploration-
A group dedicated to talking up Huddersfield and attracting investment to the town has been working behind the scenes during the coronavirus pandemic to ensure 2021 will mark the start of a remarkable recovery.
Sir John Harman, chairman of Huddersfield Unlimited, has outlined three real areas for potential growth and investment in the town in the coming months and years.
Huddersfield Unlimited is made up of business people and well-known names from the town including entrepreneur Ken Davy and University of Huddersfield Vice-Chancellor Prof Bob Cryan, anxious to tell the world about opportunities in the town and attract investment here.
Sir John predicts that the town has some great opportunities to drive recovery in 2021.
He said: “2020 has been a tough year for business and Covid has definitely slowed us down, but during 2020 the board of Huddersfield Unlimited and members of our expert working groups have continued to work behind the scenes on the building blocks of recovery.”
Huddersfield Unlimited has spotlighted three key opportunities for Huddersfield:
Sir John said: “The Government is making decisions on transport infrastructure, but especially rail which will make a huge difference to Huddersfield as a place to invest. We continue to press for full electrification of the TransPennine line and we are working constructively to that end. Rail improvements need to be linked to investment in the station area to help kickstart its revival.
“The council has an ambitious blueprint for reshaping the town centre and is prepared to invest public money, but that won’t be nearly enough. We have brought together a team of commercially experienced property people who are giving their time to help promote town centre opportunities to investors and this expertise is ready to work with the council.”
Sir John added: “2020 has seen a golden opportunity emerge with the plans for a health innovation campus on the ex-sports centre site at Southgate. I congratulate the university and the council for coming together to make this site available. It entirely supports our own work on Huddersfield’s opportunities in the growth of the digital economy over the last year.
“We can have a competitive advantage in medical technology with several key firms already in the area and a good research base. We’d already identified this as a growth opportunity, but the announcement of the new campus doubles up on that and it will create a cluster of new businesses around it. This for us is a magnet for new investment.”
If Huddersfield wants to reinvent itself it must "dare to be different."
This is the advice from the man behind one of the most forward-thinking urban regeneration companies in the north of England.
Nathan Cornish is group board director of Urban Splash, a Manchester-based company with nearly 30 years success as innovators in regeneration and regrowth in industrial buildings and towns across the UK.
He was the main speaker at Huddersfield Civic Society’s annual joint lecture presented by Huddersfield Civic Society and Huddersfield University’s School of Art, Design and Architecture and the subject of his talk was After 2020, how do we continue to regenerate and attract people to places like Huddersfield?
Nathan asked why some towns and cities are successful in reinventing themselves but others are not and talked about what makes a building or a town centre somewhere that people want to come, live, work and enjoy.
He could give no simple answer to that big question for us in Huddersfield but suggested a combination of collaboration between stakeholders, deciding what we want to make Huddersfield ‘tick’, working with great designers, daring to be different and following a true public/private partnership. Above all, we should have a clear vision and strong leadership to ‘try and be like Huddersfield’.
Nathan said it was notable that successful regeneration looks to involve whole districts rather than individual buildings and that making a community involves multiple uses in the same area, rather than the traditional segregation of areas for residential, commercial and retail.
Urban Splash is a Manchester-based company with nearly 30 years success as innovators in regeneration and regrowth in industrial buildings and in towns across the UK.
Nathan showed examples from South Shields to Plymouth where former mills, factories, warehouses, docks and decayed housing had been reinvented as new urban communities where people want to live, work and relax.
Lister Mills in Bradford was one of several examples of the successful conversion of listed former Victorian mills and warehouses to accommodate modern homes with ground-floor commercial units. Park Hill flats in Sheffield provides an interesting example of conversion now underway of rundown 60-year-old public housing into a mixed-tenure estate made up of homes for market rent, private sale, shared ownership, student accommodation and social housing.
Not many years ago we might not have imagined that a successful businessman would now bemoan that there are no more mills or warehouses left to convert around Manchester city centre.
More than 100 Huddersfield Civic Society members, university staff, students and civic guests watched the lecture online via Zoom on Tuesday, March 2.
Professor Adrian Pitts from the University of Huddersfield led a short celebration to mark 100 years of architecture being taught in Huddersfield before the main speech.
Victoria Tower, Castle Hill picture by Vinny Tyrell
Comments may be made at the end of a story