'WONKY HOMES' PLAN THROWN OUT

THE biggest single development planned for Hebden Bridge in more than 50 years has been rejected by the Planning Inspectorate.

The highly controversial 10 million so-called "Wonky Homes" scheme for the Garden Street car park area featuring 24 homes, 24 flats, 16 new business premises and an underground car park, would be too big and have a bad impact on the town's Conservative Area, said inspector Roger Brown.

Opponents of the scheme told a week-long public inquiry last month that the six blocks of properties rising up to seven storeys high would resemble an office block and bring even more traffic congestion to the town.

Despite rejecting the appeal for planning permission, Mr Brown said Hebden Royd Development LLP had provided sufficient justification for the level of extra parking proposed.

"I do not disagree with English Heritage and the Commission for Architecture and Building Environment (CABE) that the development incorporating a number of the design characteristics would contribute to the architectural vocabulary of Hebden Bridge.

"In addition, the proposed paved and planted area leading off Commercial Street would be a pleasing addition to public space within the town.

"But when seen from Garden Street and Albert Street, the overall massing and scale of two blocks would be visually dominant and unacceptably harmful to the character and ambience of the locale."

Anthony Rae, for the Garden Street Action Group said: "It's the decision we expected, because in truth the developers did not put up a good case at the inquiry. This must now be the end of a damaging episode in the history of the town with this ill-thought out scheme. Some critical issues, such as the suitability of the cladding system in a Conservation Area, were never properly examined.

"Fortunately for Hebden Bridge, when the proposals were finally put before, first the independent tribunal of the Planning Committee, and now an independent inspector, they were found wanting, and so a great risk to the town has been averted.

"Calderdale Council must now withdraw this development opportunity on their own site, and cancel the legal agreement they signed with the developer. As we've said before: they got us into this mess, now they must get us out of it with one final, decisive action."

Calderdale Council chose Hebden Royd Development LLP in 2005 to develop the former housing site at Garden Street and create more parking space at no cost to the public purse. Architects Studio BAAD of Hebden Bridge designed the proposed development and spokesman Mr Philip Bintliff said: "I urge everyone interested in the project to read the inspector's decision. It suggests that there were very few areas of concern. No doubt objectors will claim his decision as a victory but the inspector makes it very clear that the objections were wrong, irrelevant or both and they had no influence on the outcome. Hardly a victory for the objectors.

"As for our design, those that have followed its progress will know that we take on board constructive criticism. The inspector, an experienced architect and planner, supported in every respect save for two areas of concern. The height can be modified very simply. So we welcome the support he gave our architecture to set alongside that which we previously received from the Planning Department, English Heritage, CABE and members of the local community. The decision was disappointing but he cannot permit an appeal with conditions so in this instance he could only dismiss. However, the minor points he referred to provide a clear direction and we welcome them."

Local Calderdale Councillor Janet Battye said: "There should have been an open discussion about this site before the council engaged a developer and caused such resentment.

"Now we need to harness public interest and come up with a more acceptable proposal," she said.

Hebden Royd Town Council also strongly opposed the scheme and Mayor Coun John Beacroft-Mitchell said: "This is certainly a victory for Hebden Bridge. It was an imaginative design but its sheer size was completely out of character with the town.

"As a community we need to think long and hard about how the Garden Street site should be developed.

"And we also need to think how it would be paid for."

Chairman of Hebden Bridge Business Association Mr Duncan McKie said: "It is a victory for common sense. Perhaps Calderdale will now leave Hebden Bridge alone to flourish after reinstating the correct on-street parking bays." The inspector, an experienced architect and planner, supported in every respect save for two areas of concern. The height can be modified very simply. So we welcome the support he gave our architecture to set alongside that which we previously received from the Planning Department, English Heritage, CABE and members of the local community. The decision was disappointing but he cannot permit an appeal with conditions so in this instance he could only dismiss. However, the minor points he referred to provide a clear direction and we welcome them.”

Local Calderdale Councillor Janet Battye said: “There should have been an open discussion about this site before the council engaged a developer and caused such resentment.

“Now we need to harness public interest and come up with a more acceptable proposal,” she said.

Hebden Royd Town Council also strongly opposed the scheme and Mayor Coun John Beacroft-Mitchell said: “This is certainly a victory for Hebden Bridge. It was an imaginative design but it's sheer size was completely out of character with the town.

“As a community we now need to think long and hard about how the Garden Street site should be developed.

“And we also need to think how it would be paid for.”

Chairman of Hebden Bridge Business Association Mr Duncan McKie said: “It is a victory for commonsense. Perhaps Calderdale will now leave Hebden Bridge alone to flourish after reinstating the correct on-street parking bays.”