Disused sites are an ‘issue’

Northgate Mills in Cleckheaton.

Northgate Mills in Cleckheaton.

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Councillors and traders from across north Kirklees are calling for more to be done by landowners to boost regeneration in the region’s towns.

In a speech made last month, Labour leader Ed Miliband called on businesses to stop holding onto land and refusing to develop it, a view echoed by people in the region.

Mr Miliband said: “Across our country, there are land-owners with planning permission, sitting on land, waiting for it to accumulate in value and not building on it. We have to change that and give councils real power to say to developers that they should either use the land or lose the land.”

Dewsbury councillor Paul Kane, who is head of the Dewsbury Regeneration Scheme agreed that the hoarding of land is a big problem in Dewsbury.

He said: “This is not a new issue.

“I have been working in development for the last 30 years and know that ‘land banking’ has gone on for years.

“It causes no end of issues but is worst in town centres, in particular where developers buy a dilapidated building which everyone wants to see developed, gets everyone to support a planning application and when they get it do not do anything with it until grants become available.”

Cleckheaton has had problems with large amounts disused land around the town centre, and earlier this year the plug had been pulled on a new supermarket in the town.

Despite gaining planning permission to redevelop Northgate Mills in 2009, Tesco sensationally pulled out of the plans.

Northgate Mills now stands undeveloped, and is seen as unsafe and an eyesore.

Cleckheaton councillor Kath Pinnock said: “I think it is the responsibility of land-owners like Tesco either to redevelop the sites or demolish them to make them safe.

“If it comes out of their pocket, that’s tough luck - they have a responsibility to towns they own so much land in.

“Councils do not have enough power to do something in situations like this, and I hope we would have powers to tackle problems like this in the future.”

A spokesman for Tesco said: “We are currently making arrangements to tidy up the site, and hope to demolish the existing buildings on the site before the end of this year.”

Simon Thirkill from the Heckmondwike Business Alliance said: “For us in Heckmondwike, we have not had problems with land-hoarding – the problems are more about small buildings that were shops being left derelict.

“We want the land owners to work together with the councils to help do more to help redevelop these buildings so they are fit for use.”