Residents of sleepy rural cul-de-sac lie across dry stone wall to stop it being bulldozed

Dry stone walling at the bottom of Wesley Avenue in Netherthong (Pic: Google)Dry stone walling at the bottom of Wesley Avenue in Netherthong (Pic: Google)
Dry stone walling at the bottom of Wesley Avenue in Netherthong (Pic: Google)
Residents of a sleepy rural cul-de-sac were forced to lie across a dry stone wall to prevent it being bulldozed to create an illegal access to farmland earmarked for housing.

People living on Wesley Avenue in Netherthong, near Holmfirth, called the police to stop the demolition, and were astonished when workmen began pulling the wall apart by hand after police officers had left the scene.

The early morning incident in May was revealed to a meeting of Kirklees Council’s Huddersfield Planning Sub-Committee (Dec 9) when members deferred an outline application to build 33 homes on fields next to Wesley Avenue.

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Locals argued that the narrow road is not wide enough to accommodate the number of cars that the proposed housing estate would attract – a stance they said was supported by a local inquiry by the Department for Environment dating back to 1980.

They said that decision remained valid as it had never been quashed and that the danger to pedestrians from traffic had increased in the 40 years since.

That was rejected by the council’s legal officer.

Residents have also mounted a legal challenge to claim a strip of land at the end of Wesley Avenue, which they say has not been proved to be part of the highway by the council.

The council’s legal officer said the land is considered to be highway verge.

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Wesley Avenue was also likened to “a 70m bottleneck” that was never intended to be part of a wider estate.

Coun Nigel Patrick (Con, Holme Valley South) said there was “no legal right of way” through to the development site.

He added: “In desperation I think that’s why the wall was knocked down: to make it look like there was an established right of access, but there isn’t one. This land is effectively land-locked.

“Wesley Avenue was built as a cul-de-sac, not as a through road, and its width doesn’t meet our own policies. I think the council needs to put its hand up and say a mistake has been made. I would urge the councillors on the committee to refuse the application.”

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Colne Valley MP Jason McCartney said residents had provided “well thought-out, logical and legal planning reasons” to reject the application, which he described as “unsuitable and unsustainable”.

Planning consultant Alistair Flatman, on behalf of the applicant Fairbank Investments Ltd, said the site was allocated for housing within the council’s Local Plan and urged councillors to back officers’ recommendation to approve.

Coun Bill Armer (Con, Kirkburton) congratulated opponents for using solid planning arguments over Nimbyism and cautioned: “We put weight on the Local Plan but it’s not always right.

“The Local Plan, in my opinion, is defective at times. and does sometimes give the impression of having been a desktop exercise.”

The committee voted 7-5 in favour of deferral.

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