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Hundreds of objections to ‘Happy Valley’ police station conversion plan

Filming outside the former Sowerby Bridge Police station
Filming outside the former Sowerby Bridge Police station

More than 200 objections have been made against plans to convert the former Sowerby Bridge police station often used as a location in BBC TV police drama Happy Valley.

Happy Valley film crew in Calderdale
WHM Properties have applied to convert the former Sowerby Bridge Police Station, Station Road, into a 28 bedroom and two bedsit large house in multiple occupation (HMO).

The former Sowerby Bridge Police station

The former Sowerby Bridge Police station

As well as its official purpose as a police station until the recent past, it has also served as the fictional base for Police Sergeant Catherine Cawood, played by Sarah Lancashire, and her colleagues in the hard-hitting Calder Valley based ratings hit drama Happy Valley.

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Calderdale Council’s Planning Committee will consider the application next Tuesday, October 16, when it meets at Halifax Town Hall (2pm).

The description of the development is described in the application as “amended” and in the report compiled by council officers – who are recommending it should be permitted – they say the majority of objections are in response to the original description of the development as a hostel.

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Objectors claim the building is unsuitable for a hostel as it is too small and raise issues about crime, parking, the character of the building, increase in traffic and potential noise pollution.

Others say it will have a negative impact on the town.

Sowerby Bridge ward councillor Mike Payne (Con) has requested the application be put before the committee because the recommendation is to permit.

He says: “There appears to be a lot of secrecy about this application and it is not clear what the intended use will be.

“In the circumstances if officers are mindful to allow then I would request that this is heard by the full planning committee.

“This will enable the full facts of the application to be discussed in public.”

Officers say that with some conditions the proposal meets the council’s planning requirements, being within the designated Sowerby Bridge town centre.

They say: “It is not a quiet residential area. It is within the designated town centre, albeit on the boundary, and multi-occupancy residential buildings are not uncommon in such areas.

“It is considered that the proposal would add to the mix of uses in the area, and it would not harm the character of the locality.”

Officers say the revised Calderdale Unitary Development Plan states that HMOs play an important part in providing a balanced housing mix especially for those who are unable to access other tenure and they also offer accommodation to students and young professionals who wish to live in central locations they would not otherwise be able to afford.

Objector concerns about possible increased crime, drug issues and noise as a result of the development are noted by officers who add that the West Yorkshire Police Architectural liaison officer has also commented on the proposal, saying: “In my experience of HMO premises and research conducted by University academics, there is a strong correlation between them and a rise in non-domestic violence offences…

“We could also expect to see a rise in anti-social behaviour particularly around the area and within the town centre. This in turn could see a rise in calls for police service.

“Over the past 12 months Sowerby Bridge town centre has seen a rise in anti-social behaviour which has already led to police and partner agencies having to conduct ‘days of action’ to tackle the growing problem.

“Putting a HMO in close proximity to the town centre could elevate this already problematic situation.”

The officer recommends that if it goes ahead a management plan setting out tenants’ behaviour and expectations is put in place, external lighting be installed, doors to be of building regulations standard and attack resistant glazing to the ground floor or accessible doors and windows be fitted.

Planning officers say information suggests increased incidents of anti-social behaviour and burglary occur when there is a high concentration of HMOs, which was not the case in this instance. Planning case history suggests that with a lack of evidence for proliferation of such problems, an application might be granted on appeal if it were refused.

Their report says as the site is within a main urban area with a low concentration of HMOs it is considered the proposal is “unlikely to result in a significant negative impact” and any likely impact could be mitigated by a condition requiring submission of a management plan as suggested by the police officer.

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