Frustrated Hebden Bridge residents and business owners have slammed a developer’s decision to close the temporary Valley Road car park.
Located on the former Fire Station site, owned by Eshton Gregory Ltd, the land had previously been earmarked as the site of a new Sainsbury’s Local store, until proposals were dealt a final blow by the Planning Inspectorate in May.
Despite being used as a car park for around six years, Eshton Gregory has now terminated its lease agreement with Calderdale Council, which had been managing it.
A report issued by the Planning Inspectorate also outlined that planning permission for the temporary car park has now expired.
But angry protestors say the loss of the land as a car park will be a massive blow to the town, particularly on market days, as the spot was popular with visitors to the outdoor market on Wednesdays and Thursdays.
Councillor Janet Battye (Lib Dem, Calder) was among those who gathered at the site to share their frustration.
She said: “Until there is another use for this site, I think it’s a great pity that Eshton Gregory are not going to continue its use as a car park.
“We need more parking in Hebden Bridge, this site is quite central and this area is an important one. It makes perfect sense until something else is planned.
“It is a real pity that Eshton Gregory appear not to want to work with businesses, even on a temporary basis. We need parking in Hebden Bridge and this is a good place to have it.
“I hope any future use would include some car parking. It would be a great sign from Eshton Gregory that they mean well for the people of Hebden Bridge.
“They could bring it up to standard for use.”
Donna Bean, manager at the Forget Me Not Children’s Hospice shop warned the move would have a devastating impact on the store.
“Our customers use this car park, they need this parking and it is going to impact what we get donated,” she said. “We rely on market day as it is our busiest day.”
Lucy Landale, of Bonsall’s Ironmongers, added: “It is terrible, we have already lost a lot of parking, people are already coming into the shop complaining there is nowhere to park. It’s going to be a nightmare - we will lose trade and it is going to have a significant impact on the business.
“If people can’t park, they are not going to come.”
Bob Deacon, chair of the Hebden Bridge Partnership, said that attention needs to be given to how the land might be developed.
He said: “Now that the application to develop a Sainsbury store on the old Fire Station site has been rejected attention needs to be given to alternative ways in which this site might be developed.
“This issue has probably become more urgent given the closure of the car-park on the site.
“Clearly provision for parking needs to be included but combined with any one of a number of possible other site uses.”
Isla Campbell, a resident of Hebden Bridge, added that a number of popular children’s schemes are reluctant to come into the town because they are not able to guarantee car parking space.
And Marie Greenfield, a childminder in the town, said: “If there’s no parking then people park on my street, but then I can’t park my car.
“It’s not illegal, but when you have four kids with you, it makes it really difficult.”
In response to the car park’s closure, councillor Barry Collins, Calderdale Council’s cabinet member for regeneration and economic development, said: “The Council managed the car park under the terms of a lease agreement with the company. Eshton Gregory has now terminated this agreement, with effect from June 25, 2015.”
Eshton Gregory declined to comment.