MAJOR growth plans by Hebden Bridge-based manufacturer Calrec Audio Ltd are in limbo after councillors were forced to put a decision on hold at the 11th hour.
The company, a world-wide exporter of audio consoles – a significant number of which are destined for the US and Japanese markets – had applied for permission to extend its Nutclough Mill premises, where it has been based for 21 years.
Its proposal for a 10,000 sq ft extension would include an 8,000 sq ft manufacturing operation with the addition of underground parking for 27 cars.
There were two aspects to the application – for an extension to the back (east side) of the mill and also for listed building consent for the development.
But as objectors and other interested parties, including Calrec bosses, gathered at Halifax Town Hall on Tuesday evening to hear details of the application and councillors’ views, there was an unexpected twist in the tale.
The council had received a letter from solicitors acting for the objectors less than three hours before the meeting started. It stated that numbers 1-31 Nutclough were Grade II listed - a factor that had not featured on the council’s electronic information on the application, members were told. And when planning officers examined their paper records it was established that the properties, built at the end of the 19th century as mill-workers’ cottages, had been listed by virtue of their position at the curtilage of the mill, which was itself successfully listed by Pennine Heritage in 1974.
“To proceed would potentially leave the council open to a legal challenge so we have to recommend that the applications are deferred to investigate further,” councillors were told.
The cottages’ own listed status had been established following a High Court case in 1982 in which a group of residents had challenged Calderdale Council’s plan to knock them down, said Helen Taylor, who lives in the terrace.
She said objectors felt the council had overlooked the cottages’ status and that residents were being presented with a “fait accompli” without all the facts being put before the planning committee.
Ms Taylor said: “Nobody wants Calrec to leave - they are a great company to have in Hebden Bridge. Why does anyone imagine for a second that all of us who have assets in Hebden Bridge have any desire for them to leave? We want them to stay and we want them to prosper and grow.”
Neighbours were concerned that the application as it stands is a large extension, not made of natural stone, which would not only loom large close to their ground floor windows but also take away some of the town’s quaint heritage and character, she said.
Ms Taylor added: “Thousands of people come to Hebden Bridge because it looks like it does. We were very concerned about the next person who wanted to build something that was not appropriate in Hebden Bridge and the council would not have a leg to stand on.”
Calrec managing director Roger Henderson said: “Tuesday’s decision was disappointing but we remain hopeful of a positive resolution to our application in December.
“Calrec, as a world leader in broadcast audio products, is growing, with the majority of this growth from export, particularly to the US and Japan. The fact that Calrec equipment is designed and manufactured in Hebden Bridge is a large part of our international branding. We welcome customers from all over the world to the factory almost every week, and they are always very impressed with the mill, our manufacturing processes and attention to detail, and, of course, the locality.
“This considered building development will allow us to continue to grow as we expand into new international markets by providing the facilities we need to manufacture a wider range of world-class broadcast products and to provide a base for the 150 highly technical staff that now work here.
“Our position and wish to remain in Hebden Bridge is unchanged.”