Mass protest threat in row

A GROUP fighting to protect green belt land in Chidswell has threatened a protest which would dwarf the camp at London’s St Paul’s Cathedral.

Members of Chidswell Action Group met key figures from the Church of England on Monday to discuss the proposed development of green belt land for homes and businesses.

The Church of England’s investment arm, the Church Commissioners, owns a large swathe of Chidswell’s green belt and has offered it up for development as part of Kirklees Council’s Local Development Framework planning blueprint.

Monday’s meeting was arranged by the vicar of St Mary’s, Woodkirk, the Rev Amanda Barraclough, who said she wanted to start a dialogue between the protesters and the Church Commissioners.

Rod Lilley, of the Action Group, said: “We may have lost the battle but the war hasn’t started yet. What you saw down at St Paul’s Cathedral is nothing to what you are going to see up here.”

He said the land owned by the Church Commissioners was important for agriculture.

The Church Commissioners’ head of planning Steve Melligan said: “My home, where I live, used to be a field. So did yours.

“Everyone’s home used to be a field where crops were grown, so let’s be careful about what you say about using agricultural land for development.”

Mr Melligan said the Church Commissioners intended to build on the land – previously owned by UK Coal – without removing the 2m tonnes of coal in the ground first.

He said he hoped the Action Group would continue to work with the Church Commissioners to influence any plans as they develop, such as where access sites might go.