Row over church land

Protestors at the meeting.LDF. Chidswell Action Group. Green belt land
Protestors at the meeting.LDF. Chidswell Action Group. Green belt land

PARISHIONERS are boycotting St Mary’s Church in Woodkirk over controversial plans to build on green belt land.

Some locals have said they were no longer attending the church in Leeds Road over plans were agreed by Kirklees Council to allow building on the land in Chidswell, which is owned by the Church Commissioners.

Chairman of Chidswell Action Group Rod Lilley said he had cancelled his direct debit with the church and had no plans to return.

But St Mary’s vicar, the Rev Amanda Barraclough, asked locals not to confuse local parishes with the church ‘head office’.

Churchgoers are angry with the Church of England for buying the land, known as Windsor Park, from UK Coal knowing it was earmarked for major industrial and residential development.

Campaigners wanting to save the 180 hectares of land say the church only bought it to make a profit.

The land was bought, with other sites, for a total of £12.5m. If the development plans go ahead as proposed in the Local Development Framework it could fetch £116m.

Dewsbury MP Simon Reevell has urged the church to ‘practise what it preaches’.

“Pursuing profit before anything else takes us back to the worst excess of a bygone age and senior members of the clergy may well want to speak out against it,” he said.

The Church Commissioners said it was for the council to decide on the best use of the land. A spokesman said: “We have been liaising with various representatives of the local community since buying this land in August. Should those responsible decide to allocate the land in the long-term for use as a business park and for housing, we would support that.”