Owner of 'unviable' Georgian pub where Luddite rebels once met wants to bulldoze it to make way for housing

An 18th century pub that once served as a meeting place for textile workers involved in the Luddite rebellion is at the centre of a tug-of-war between historians, planners and its owner.

The Shears in Liversedge

The Shears Inn at Hightown in Liversedge is earmarked for demolition by owner Andrew Mitchell, who says it is no longer viable as a pub.

He wants to bulldoze the pub on the A649 Halifax Road and build four four-bed detached houses on the site.

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But his scheme, which comes up for debate this week, has been recommended for refusal by Kirklees Council planners.

They say the building, which dates from 1773, is a non-designated heritage asset “with historic significant interest”.

In a report to the council’s Heavy Woollen Planning Sub-Committee (Apr 14) they add: “The history of the Luddite movement is of national interest and The Shears had an important part in the history of that movement in Yorkshire and the events of 1812.”

The Luddites were pre-industrial textile workers who felt their livelihoods were threatened by increasing mechanisation.

A group gathered in the pub in April 1812 before ambushing wagons carrying new machinery. The ringleaders were later hanged.

Mr Mitchell, who bought the derelict pub more than a decade ago and invested nearly £500,000 in it, has previously said that it was ” haemorrhaging money” and he had to shut it, sell it or knock it down to avoid bankruptcy.

The report to the committee said he has discounted converting the old pub into housing and building one detached dwelling on the land.

The scheme has received 306 representations, the majority opposing Mr Mitchell’s plans.

And whilst various council departments have no objections, the conservation and design team said “minimal public benefits” would arise from the development to weigh against “the harm to the loss” of the non-designated heritage asset.

Officers say the principle of the proposed development is “not acceptable” and that if the Shears can no longer be used as a pub then “it would be more sustainable to re-use and adapt the existing building than to demolish it.”

The Shears has also been nominated as an Asset of Community Value, which means if it was to be sold then community interest groups would be given six weeks to express interest in buying it.

Erica Amende of Spen Valley Civic Society said it supported the officer’s recommendation and reiterated its original opposition to the application on the grounds of the building’s historical significance.

She added: “We are amazed that the applicant claims it is not financially viable to convert the building to residential use and build an additional house in the existing car park, on land which is already owned by the applicant.”