West Yorkshire mayor Green candidate Andrew Cooper says more must be done to protect landscape which set scene for Gentleman Jack

The Green Party's candidate to be West Yorkshire's first metro mayor says more measures are needed to protect the county's environment and unique landscape which was key to the popularity of TV series Last Tango in Halifax and Gentleman Jack.

Andrew Cooper says that if elected he would protect the character and distinctiveness of the landscape which was vital to the big upsurge in visitor numbers enjoyed in parts of Yorkshire before the pandemic.

A councillor in Kirklees for more than two decades, he last week visited Halifax in the borough of Calderdale where the Labour-run authority faces criticism over the number of homes it plans to build on protected Green Belt land.

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Andrew Cooper says that if elected he would protect the character and distinctiveness of the landscape which was vital to the big upsurge in visitor numbers enjoyed in parts of Yorkshire before the pandemic.

Of the 15,000 homes that need to be built to meet the requirements of the council's Local Plan blueprint, nearly 7,000 will need to be built on Green Belt land.

There were over eight million visits to Calderdale in 2019, 26 more more than in 2018, while visits to Shibden Hall, the home of Anne Lister, have trebled since the airing of the popular BBC series Gentleman Jack.

But Greens say local campaigners and residents are angered by the fact that several green spaces close to the visitor attraction and its grounds are earmarked for housing development in Calderdale’s Local Plan.

Mr Cooper said: "The Green Party will protect the erosion of the Green Belt by building on brownfield sites and funding clean, public transport and active travel - not more road building, which is being pushed by Labour.”

Calderdale council says not enough homes have been delivered locally in recent years, meaning many people are struggling to find homes that are affordable.

It says the Local Plan has prioritised brownfield and other land in urban areas but that "it is simply not possible to meet our needs without some loss of Green Belt". Its lead for planning, Richard Seaman, said recently: "It is important to put this in context though – about 98 per cent of the Green Belt will remain free of development."

Mr Cooper is one of seven candidates standing to be West Yorkshire mayor on May 6. If elected he will take on powers over housing, transport and policing and access to new funding pots.

Last July, as a result of the county's devolution deal, West Yorkshire Combined Authority secured £67 million from the Government’s Brownfield Housing Fund, which will help to build 4,500 to 6,000 new homes on already-developed sites over the next four years.

Currently local councils develop Local Plans which guide where homes will be built in their areas in the medium term.

It was originally intended to give the elected mayor powers to raise taxes for major planning projects and create a county-wide planning strategy.

But the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government said last month that these powers "will not be conferred at this time" as the Government wants to reform the planning system.

The other candidates are Tracy Brabin (Labour), Stewart Golton (Lib Dem), Matt Robinson (Conservative), Bob Buxton (Yorkshire Party), Waj Ali (Reform UK) and Therese Hirst (English Democrats).