Conversion of mills ‘may risk future of town’s shopping’

COUNCILLORS will today be asked to approve multi-million pound plans for the regeneration of the former Blakeridge Mills complex in Batley.

Binks Developments has applied for permission for a supermarket and petrol station and the conversion of two mills into 181 apartments.

The scheme also includes a swimming pool, gym and car parking on the two lower levels of Blakeridge Mill.

The developer says that money from the supermarket plan will partially fund its mill conversion proposals.

The proposal has already received support from the heavy woollen planning sub-committee which has referred the application to the Kirklees planning and highways committee, which meets today, with a recommendation for approval.

The heavy woollen committee backed the scheme against the advice of planning officers who warned that the proposed supermarket would damage Batley town centre’s “vitality”.

Their report concluded that it would have a big impact on Tesco in Batley which would see at least a third of its trade disappear.

The report said: “Added to the already vulnerable position of Batley town centre (identified by current vacancy rates and reduced footfall), such impacts will significantly reduce the numbers of shoppers visiting these key anchor stores, and hence any related spin-off trade to the town centre will also be lost.

“The proposed store is therefore likely to result in reduced footfall, increased vacancies and a more downmarket offer.”

At a meeting earlier this month, councillors argued that the site was in need of renovation and the supermarket would create jobs.

Speaking on behalf of Batley and Spen Labour MP Mike Wood, Dan Howard said the MP believed the application should be supported.

He said: “His view, which is shared by all the retailers that he has spoken to in Batley, is that the regeneration of this large derelict site, the investment and the employment opportunities offered outweigh the perceived threat to the town centre.

“The consensus seems to be that a new supermarket would only affect other supermarkets and not the town centre.”

Councillors will visit the site today and then make a decision.