An important role of the Society is to consider new planning applications. Kirklees Council consults us on major applications which cover the Huddersfield area.
Key changes often result from the Society’s comments and its efforts in preventing development which is felt to have a negative impact on the area’s heritage and environmental quality. Anyone can view and comment on planning applications via the Kirklees Council website. If you see any you think we should know about, please contact us in addition to telling Kirklees Council your views.
Castle Hill proposal not justified and must be rejected
Application No. 2018/93591 – Castle Hill Restaurant with Rooms & Event Venue Comments made on behalf of Huddersfield Civic Society.
As a society, focused on the maintenance and improvement of civic pride and the protection of historic structures important to the people of Huddersfield, we strongly believe that the debates about developments at the top of Castle Hill have gone on far too long.
Without doubt, Victoria Tower atop the Scheduled Iron Age Hillfort (known as Castle Hill) holds a very special place in the hearts of Huddersfield residents. It is a symbol of our heritage and a well-loved spot to visit and take in the surrounding views and reflect. It is also a destination of choice for visitors wishing to sample our heritage and rural landscape. Tourism and visitor facilities should be focused on Huddersfield Town Centre (as proposed in the Blueprint) or district centres, such as Almondbury and Honley, which already provide a range of pubs, restaurant and small hotels, support the wider business community, and have suitable provision for access by sustainable public transport.
With this in mind, we believe it incumbent upon us to scrutinise with care any proposals which affect this valued historic location. In this regard, we detail below our understanding of planning policy relevant to what is recognised as new build development, in the Green Belt, within the curtilage of the listed Victoria Tower, physically built into key features of the Scheduled Motte and Bailey Iron Age Hillfort.
Our conclusion, supported by the analysis below, is that the current proposal (together with its prior iterations) constitutes inappropriate development in accordance with NPPF13 para 145 and is not justified under the claimed ‘very special circumstances’ of NPPF13 para 145 (b) on the basis that the ‘inappropriate development and other harm’ is not clearly outweighed by the claimed benefits as required by NPPF13 para 144.
Analysis of Planning Policy LP56 New Build in Green Belt incorporates into the Kirklees Local Plan, the very narrow circumstances, defined by National Planning Policy Framework (“NPPF13”) within which development can be undertaken in the Green Belt. The fundamental aim of Green Belt policy being to prevent urban sprawl by keeping land permanently open; the essential characteristics of Green Belt land being its openness and permanence. Once Green Belts have been defined, local planning authorities are tasked with positively enhancing their beneficial use, which includes looking for opportunities to:
Provide opportunities for outdoor sport and recreation
Retain and enhance landscapes, visual amenity and biodiversity or
Improve damaged and derelict land
Development Proposals Affecting Green Belt: The element of NPPF applicable to the proposed development is contained within Section 13 paragraphs 143- 145 and states:
143. Inappropriate development is, by definition, harmful to the Green Belt and should not be approved except in very special circumstances ('VSCs').
144. When considering any planning application, Kirklees planning authority should ensure substantial weight is given to any harm to the Green Belt. VSC’s will not exist unless potential harm to the Green Belt (by reason of inappropriateness or other harm) resulting from the proposal, is clearly outweighed by claimed facilities provided within the development. Clearly the threshold required to outweigh harm is intended to be very high.
145. Kirklees planning authority should regard the construction of new buildings as inappropriate in the Green Belt subject to consideration of the narrow exception claimed in this application: (b) the provision of appropriate facilities (in connection with the existing use of the land) for outdoor sport, outdoor recreation, cemeteries and burial grounds and allotments; as long as the facilities preserve the openness of the Green Belt and do not conflict with the purposes of including the land (Castle Hill) within the Green Belt.
Appropriate Green Belt Facilities: As the principal objective of Green Belt policy is to maintain an open character by preventing development, it follows that any new building/parking area (associated with an appropriate Green Belt use) should be no more than is genuinely required to enable that use to be carried on. Reference to guidance and case law states that ‘appropriate facilities’ should:
Be genuinely required
Involve uses of land which preserve the openness of the Green Belt
Not conflict with the purposes of including the land (Castle Hill) in the Green Belt.
Examples offered in the guidance include small changing rooms or unobtrusive spectator accommodation for outdoor sport, or small stables for outdoor sport and outdoor recreation. Each of these examples makes clear the construction envisaged is intended to be:
Directly (rather than indirectly) related to the outdoor activity
Limited in size, and
Dedicated to the provision of the facility (rather than containing an incidental element)
The development, for which approval is sought, represents: a 100 cover restaurant; bar; 6 bedrooms; and an 80sqm event facility; over 3 floors (2 sunken into the very heart of a scheduled Iron Age Hillfort) which is primarily: a commercial venture run for profit; not directly related to the outdoor activity; is not of limited size; and is not dedicated to the provision of the facility.
As such, the development:
Is not genuinely required – Current high visitor levels are achieved without the facility
Does not involve a use of land which preserves the openness of the Green Belt – Constructionrestricts openness and cannot be approved unless one of the VSC’s applies.
Conflicts with the purposes of including the land (Castle Hill) in the Green Belt – The purposebeing the preservation of an historic landscape, a listed monument and a Scheduled Iron AgeHillfort of local, regional and national importance
Is not directly related to the outdoor activity – The prime focus is provision of a commercial eventfacility
Is not limited in size, an is not dedicated to the provision of the facility (rather than containing an incidental element) – lessthan 20% of the facility is directly provided for this purpose and only that on a shared basis.
Claimed 'Very Special Circumstances': The supporting documentation acknowledges the application is subject to the VSCs test and claims that facilities including provision of interpretation and education space, as well as for more basic physical needs such as shelter, WC’s and refreshment could constitute those very special circumstances. Whilst this is theoretically correct there needs to be a far greater emphasis on such facilities other than shared restaurant and event facilities.
The application also claims putting the development at the top of the hill will provide a presence which will curb antisocial activity. Obviously, reduced vandalism and inappropriate behaviour can (in theory) form the basis of justification for any development in a remote location. However, this criterion does not feature in national policy for new build in the Green Belt. All this amounts to is a further public benefit which can, in certain circumstances, justify harm to a listed or schedule structure but is irrelevant in respect of inappropriate new build in the Green Belt.
Provision of recreational amenities: The proposed layout comprises 6 bedrooms, a restaurant plus supporting bar and is primarily aimed at a closed group of guests being restaurant drinkers and diners, overnight guests and private event-based functions. Whilst there is an element of the development, provided for general visitors to the site, this comprises access to a restaurant, bar and toilet facilities on a nonexclusive basis. The bulk of visitors to Castle Hill are families out for a walk, looking for snacks, drinks, information, and toilet facilities. Very few visitors to the site are looking for a sit-down meal, a party or a bed! This application is primarily seeking to deliver facilities to a group who would not attend the site other than to make use of this new build facility.
Provision of an educational recreational/interpretation facility: The applicant also highlights the provision of an event space, within the new build property, as justifying approval of the overall application. Whilst the facility does have an independent access, this will only be available for specific educational events on a pre-booked basis. At other times this will be available to further the primary hospitality function of the proposed building. A cursory review of the application makes clear the concept is a multi-purpose room (with associated toilets), occupying around 15% of the overall building, to be made available for the education of groups of children and the general public (on a pre-booked basis) between the hours of 10:00 and 16:00. The application is silent on any charges.
Provision of Toilet facilities: Well over 100,000 people currently visit Castle Hill every year. The proposed development incorporates an unspecified toilet facility to be shared with guests of the restaurant, bar and event facility. Whilst such facilities are welcome (given there are presently none on the site) this is unlikely to be commensurate with likely demand and does not fulfil the necessary NPPF13 requirement
In Conclusion: Kirklees planning authority are required to ensure any claimed VSC clearly outweighs the inappropriateness of construction in the Green Belt and any related harm. As such, to reach a conclusion on whether a claimed VSC case can be accepted, any other harm introduced by the development has to be taken into account (as well as the inappropriateness of the new build) and the claimed VSC’s must clearly outweigh all these elements combined.
The introduction of the proposed new build development, into such a highly sensitive location of local, regional and national importance, must therefore be weighed against the claimed VSC’s. Many areas of harm have been identified and articulated in the comments of both statutory consultees and concerned members of the general public. In the interests of avoiding repetition, we have simply listed the key areas of harm (as we see them) in the attached appendix.
Case law has considered and established that developers are not entitled to attach inappropriate development to an otherwise appropriate development and, through such alchemy, render the entire development as appropriate. Indeed, to do so would, over the passage of time, be severely detrimental to the objectives of Green Belt policy.
From the above analysis, the application does not meet what is intended to be a stringent test and as such this application is in breach of LP56 and NPPF Section 13 paragraphs 143-145 and must be rejected. A failure to refuse this application risks establishing a national precedent opening Green Belt across the UK to a ‘death by a thousand cuts’.
APPLICATION NUMBERS 2019/62/93789/W and 2019/44/91146/W Location: Byram Street Description of development: Erection of porch entrance, fire escape enclosure, platform lift and formation of car park, Huddersfield Parish Church (Listed Building within a Conservation Area).
Huddersfield Civic Society applauds the work carried out by the church to restore its fabric and improve facilities. Indeed, the church and its architects, One17 AD, were the overall winners in the society's annual Design Awards in 2014.
However, although there has been a previous approval for the formation of car parking on the site, HCS would request further consideration of issues that make the car parking element of this application contrary to current policies and town centre strategies.
The gardens provide an important green 'lung' and setting within the Conservation Area. The Council's Blueprint for the town centre indicates that Kirklees will 'support the enhancement of the gardens ....and make the most of the green space'. Using part of this space for parking would appear contrary to this aim. HCS, therefore, objects to the provision of parking for the following reasons:
It is contrary to the recent KC town centre Blueprint and consultation for improvements to the town’s centre major green space.
The proposal flies in the face of the Council’s aim to promote the greening of the town centre and is contrary to the aim of improving environmental and air quality.
Vehicles parked between park and church constitute a serious degradation of the ‘setting’ of the Grade 2* church.
The aim should be to discourage further private parking areas within the town and not establish a precedent for others, e.g. The Methodist Mission, which has similar requirements.
Provision of vehicular access on to an attractive and well used pedestrianised street with the related removal of stone walls would potentially create pedestrian/vehicular conflict in relation to those vehicles entering and leaving the site.
HCS would like to see the Church and Kirklees find a solution that does not compromise the historic setting and green space. The planning application refers to church parking on Venn Street that was replaced in order to develop Kingsgate, but this was not adjacent to the church entrance, entailing a short walk. It is felt that both parties should investigate alternative options such as use of the Lord Street car park, formerly occupied by the YMCA.
The application also refers to the moving of a table tomb to enable the car park to be built. This tomb is, in fact, historically important, being the memorial of Joseph Kaye known as ' the builder of Huddersfield' who constructed many of the town's churches, railway station and its finest buildings, although, ironically, not the Parish Church where his body is laid.
APPLICATION NUMBERS 2019/91505 and 2019/91506 Location: St George's Square Description of development: The George Hotel.
Huddersfield Civic Society welcomes these applications to secure, restore and introduce some changes of use within one of Huddersfield's most notable buildings. The heritage statement supporting the application indicates comprehensive retention of historic/architecturally important features and HCS would emphasise the need to ensure protection of these elements during the period of building work.
HCS does not object to the external interventions proposed. Indeed, it considers that the entrance to John William Street could be extended to indicate access to part of the building for which will serve other uses, subject to suitable detailing and proportions.
HCS would support the display of historic material relating to the founding of Rugby League at the hotel (some of which was formerly housed within the hotel's RL Heritage Centre) with the agreement of the RFL, University of Huddersfield, which holds the Rugby League archives, and Kirklees Council, should future town centre cultural developments be implemented.
Finally, the success, viability and longevity of the development and its associated businesses will be greatly enhanced if Kirklees Council and its partners are able to secure a link between St George's Square and the Railway Warehouse and its adjoining land. The George (and other developments such as Estate Buildings), would benefit enormously from such an initiative being realised.
APPLICATION NUMBER 2018/93591 Location: Castle Hill. Description of development: Hotel and restaurant.
Our objection: We consider this application to be unacceptable for the following reasons: It contradicts both local and national planning policies. Indeed, the proposal creates greater impacts than those indicated on previously refused applications for development of the site. Kirklees Council has itself recognised the importance in historic, archaeological and environmental terms for protecting the hill and its surroundings and support would seriously undermine the Council’s consistency of approach in determining such applications.
Wording within the draft Local Plan as well as the Castle Hill Setting Study produced by Kirklees Council in 2016, makes it clear that proposals which detrimentally effect Castle Hill and its undeveloped slopes and summit will not be allowed. To reverse such policies, especially given the footprint of the development exceeds previously refused proposals, is considered unacceptable. The fact that the current proposal indicates a contemporary design with use of non-traditional materials in no way mitigates from the above policies. Indeed, the visual impact of such a development would be greater and at odds with the surrounding built environment and totally alien to the setting.
The proposal flies in the face of green belt policy, the site’s designation as a Scheduled Ancient Monument and the setting of the listed Victoria Tower. Castle Hill is, perhaps, the most iconic symbol of the area and the iron age hillfort is comparable to similar protected sites around the country, for example Maiden Castle in Dorset where any provision for visitors is off site. Development on the very top of the hill as proposed would be seen as an act of gross vandalism.
The applicant’s Planning Statement states (3.4), ‘Today visitors find no public conveniences, nowhere to obtain refreshments’. The Castle Hill Management Advisory Group’s aim to ensure ‘that Castle Hill remains a special place’ indicates that it is already a special place and has little need of a place to obtain refreshments or ancillary facilities. Equally bogus is the statement (3.7) that the ‘Council’s Business Team supported the proposals and expressed the view that from a tourism point of view this is a unique location and it is sensible to target both day and overnight visitors.’ There is clearly need for more and better tourist accommodation but this statement should not imply accommodation provision is necessary on this site. Furthermore, the proposed bedrooms are not significant in regard to Kirklees overall provision where demand is closely linked to locational factors.
Clearly such statements are misleading. Castle Hill is noted for its repeat visits, by both local people and tourists and there is no doubt that they come for its setting, peace and historic associations without the need for further facilities. It is as important to Kirklees as Stonehenge is to Wiltshire. Would anyone consider refreshment facilities and a hotel on the latter site?
One element of the Planning Statement that can be supported concerns the poor level of Council investment in maintaining the site. However, the assertion (4.4) that ‘The Council, with its severe funding constraints, is unlikely to make any meaningful contribution on its own’ does, in no way provide a rationale for accepting this current proposal. Kirklees Council would remain responsible for the lion’s share of the site and its maintenance.
The proposed access arrangements appear both unworkable and contrary to highway design guidelines. Since no quota on vehicles accessing the hilltop can be applied and large functions at the hotel could add substantially to the movement of vehicles up and down the hill, there appears to be no consideration should drivers encounter difficulties along this narrow twisting road, nor the question of access from or into Lumb Lane and its junction with the increasingly busy Ashes Lane.
APPLICATION NUMBERS 2018/92687 and 2018/92647 Location: Former site of Kirklees College, New North Road. Description of development: Mixed Use and listed building consent for alterations and demolition.
Our objections: While Huddersfield Civic Society accepts the uses proposed (mainly residential) for the site, the overall design raises some concerns. Critically, the proposals have a profound impact on the setting of the listed Infirmary building, which, as a Grade 2* building is considered of regional importance, the impact on houses on Portland Street and the adjacent Conservation Area, and the aspect of the new build from the ring road.
The uniformity and 'international' style (ie it could be anywhere) of the various blocks, and their mass, articulation and fenestration, particularly those adjacent to the Infirmary, fail to reflect the architectural quality of the listed building and the town’s distinctive architectural quality. There is no suggestion that the society seeks a Neo-Georgian pastiche, rather that the design shows greater understanding of its impact and setting in relation to its surroundings.
The proportion and relationship of 19th and early 20th century extensions to the Infirmary building demonstrate, in many ways, a greater understanding of the architectural qualities of the original building and make a significant contribution to the built environment of the area north of the ring road, particularly in relation to adjoining the Conservation Area and listed buildings extending northwards beyond the site.
While the society does not wish to argue for the retention of all these structures, it is felt that the wing designed by local architect, John Kirk in 1874 and the wing containing the water tower are distinctive and architecturally important features. Furthermore, they provide a greater level of distinctiveness and understanding of the aesthetics of the setting than do the proposed replacement blocks. Given these lie within the curtilage of the listed building, no approval for new buildings should be given until there is substantial and convincing evidence that these structures cannot be successfully restored and re-used.
In addition, there are concerns regarding the level of metal cladding rather than the use of stone, particularly in relation to buildings along Portland Street and the adjacent Conservation area, although the sandstone rain-screen cladding would be acceptable and could provide a level of patterning to create a modicum of distinctiveness and interest.
Finally, any permission should ensure that those buildings which are retained are converted and suitably restored as part of an agreed phased development and are not neglected should part(s) of the site be disposed of.
APPLICATION NUMBER:2017/94109 Location: Queensgate House, Queensgate, Huddersfield, HD1 2RR. Description of development: Change of use and extension of the existing office building to create 156 student bedrooms including a gym, cycle and refuse storage area, student 'hub' space, plant and services and associated landscaping.
Our objection: This confusing application is for an extension to an existing building when in fact it would involve its demolition and replacement with a larger structure clad in entirely inappropriate material. When Queensgate House was constructed, relatively recently, the Planning Authority placed specific limitations on its massing, height and appearance, as it sits at a key gateway in the town.
This proposal contravenes all these conditions: it represents over-development of a relatively small site; it is far too tall and, by replacing the stipulated stone with brick, the cladding contravenes UDP policy BE11, NPPF paragraph 60 and the Draft Local Plan response page 156. The applicant makes much of the building’s position vis-à-vis Lowry’s celebrated 1960s painting of the scene from Chapel Hill. This proposed development would significantly damage the vista which has such importance for local people.
Planning Committee Decision: Refused.
APPLICATION NUMBER 2016/92030 Locations: Proposed Kingsgate Leisure and Retail Development, 20-22 Cross Church Street, Fleece Yard, Sun Inn Yard, White Lion Yard, land at r, Huddersfield, Cross Church Street, Huddersfield, HD1 2TP. Description of development: Listed Building Consent for erection of extension to existing Kingsgate Shopping Centre to form new Leisure Development including new cinema and restaurants, and demolition of existing buildings on the site including 20-24 Cross Church Street (partly within a Conservation Area).
Our comment: The Society is pleased that its original objections to the canopy and way markers have been heard and that both have been removed from the plan. We are also supportive of the use of natural stone on the visible elevations as now proposed in the amended plans. There are still concerns that the hanging sign could set a precedent for other listed buildings, but overall we are satisfied that our original fears have been assuaged. We would ask to be consulted before the proposed "public art" is commissioned.
Planning Authority Decision: Permitted.
APPLICATION NUMBER 2017/90951 Location: Longdenholme, 34, Greenhead Road, Huddersfield, HD1 4EZ. Description of development: Conversion of existing coach house to form 2 dwellings, erection of one dwelling, new vehicular access and parking/turning (within a Conservation Area).
Our objection: This application should be refused as it would have a severe detrimental effect on the character of Greenhead Conservation Area and the setting of the listed Greenhead Park, particularly the War Memorial designed by Sir Charles Nicholson in 1922 which was recently up-graded to Grade II* owing to its remarkable scale, exploiting to the maximum effect its siting on the Belvedere of 1881-4. The main detriment to this sensitive site comes from the proposed removal of huge sections of the high stone wall with profiled copings and an ornate gated pedestrian access on Park Drive South.
All this destruction is proposed to gain vehicular access to the site; this is neither necessary nor desirable. Park Drive South is narrow with parking all along the opposite side of the road. Vehicular access should remain as it is at present from Greenhead Road as this is far more suited to the role, being on a bus route as well as being free from car parking. The proposed two storey extension to the west of the stable block would lead to the diminution of the imposing chimney stack, which forms an iconic part of the building designed by the renowned local architect Ben Stocks: the extension should not be permitted. The proposed new house should not have the ground floor extension as it is not in keeping with the character of the Conservation Area.
Planning Authority Decision: Permitted, but, with the exception of vehicular access, all our objections dating back to 2015 have been satisfied.
APPLICATION NUMBER: 2017/92393 Location: 27, Greenhead Road, Huddersfield, HD1 4EN. Description of development: Listed Building Consent for erection of four non-illuminated signs (Conservation Area).
Our objection: These proposed signs are totally inappropriate for use on this Listed Building in a Conservation Area. The signage is almost laughable in its unsuitability: each is too large, harming the integrity of the building's frontage; the three designs being both tawdry and garish, paying no respect whatsoever to the character of the Conservation Area, causing substantial harm contrary to UDP Policies BE3 and BE13 as well as NPPF paragraphs 128-133. This application should be refused.
Planning Authority Decision: All proposed signage altered to our satisfaction and permitted.
APPLICATION NUMBER: 2017/62/92744/W Location: Birks Farm, Arkenley Lane, Almondbury, Huddersfield, HD8 0LH. Description of development: Erection of detached dwelling and demolition of existing building.
Our objection: This application should be refused as it constitutes inappropriate development in the Green Belt contrary to Kirklees UDP and the NPPF. No very special circumstances have been provided which could override the protected status of the site. This application does not satisfy any of the criteria required for a building to be permitted in the Green Belt: it is not for agricultural or forestry use; it is not an outdoor sports facility or a cemetery; nor is it a replacement of a current building for the same use. By no stretch of the imagination could this huge proposed house on a relatively isolated site be described as "infill" in a village setting, nor does it contribute to affordable housing in a rural community. If permitted, this application would set a very dangerous precedent for further unwarranted housing development in this most iconic of rural settings contiguous with a Conservation Area.