'Amazon' plan in Cleckheaton faces six-month delay over traffic concerns

A decision on a massive warehouse project on farmland near the M62 at Cleckheaton may not happen until next summer at the earliest due to concerns over clogged roads.

Monday, 20th December 2021, 10:00 am
Coun John Lawson, leader of the Liberal Democrats on Kirklees Council, with ward colleague Coun Kath Pinnock at junction 26 of the M62 at Chain Bar as traffic passes in the background

A huge 59-acre site between Whitehall Road, Whitechapel Road and the motorway is earmarked for what is believed will be an Amazon distribution centre.

It has been contentious since it was unveiled by planners on Kirklees Council in May this year.

Campaigners say local roads and the Chain Bar junction of the M62 will be swamped by heavy traffic as between six and ten HGVs could go in or out of the site every minute.

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An artist’s impression of what a massive warehouse and distribution centre near Cleckheaton could look like

Now National Highways, the Government-owned company responsible for maintaining motorways and ‘A’ roads in England, has recommended that the application not be approved until concerns about the impact on surrounding roads have been addressed.

National Highways said the delay was necessary in order that the applicant could re-run and submit revised traffic modelling scenarios to support the conclusions of its transport assessment.

An official said: “It is recommended that the application should not be approved until these matters are satisfactorily concluded. I will re-visit this recommendation no later than June 10, 2022.”

The Local Democracy Reporting Service understands that a position statement could be brought forward in the new year followed by a fresh consultation running from February into March.

The scheme could then return to Kirklees Council’s strategic planning committee for debate and decision from June onwards.

The latest development was described as “encouraging news” by campaigners who commissioned an independent specialist report that indicated traffic levels from HGV movements at the facility had been underestimated.

The report, crowd-funded and commissioned by action group Save Our Spen, said traffic modelling in the applicant’s assessment was “massively understated” as it was based on an incorrect number of HGV loading bays on the site.

A spokesman for Save Our Spen said: “Our initial concerns about the weakness and inaccuracy of the applicant’s traffic assessment were confirmed by the interim traffic assessment we commissioned on behalf of the community.

“In obtaining, through a Freedom of Information request, the latest capacity assessment of junction 26 at Chain Bar, we have been able to show the significant threat to the local and strategic road network.

“We made our concerns to National Highways and Kirklees Council and it now appears we have been listened to.

“Save our Spen will continue to hold the applicant and Kirklees Council to account in this planning application.”

Batley and Spen MP Kim Leadbeater is also opposed to the Amazon plan. She is on record as describing the controversial scheme as “too big, too polluting, too damaging”.

She said she was “delighted” that comments and objections had been taken notice of.

“It is much better to come to the right decision rather than a quick decision, and I have been very clear from the outset that local people must be given every opportunity not just to make their views heard, but to have their questions answered.

“It is still very frustrating that we don’t know for certain who the end user of the development would be.

“If, as everyone suspects, it is Amazon, then I would once again urge them to come forward and be totally open about their intentions for the site.

“A lack of transparency breeds suspicion and makes people wonder what is being hidden from them.”

Cleckheaton Lib Dem councillors John Lawson and Kath Pinnock said the move by National Highways was “an acknowledgement that the application that was brought forward was basically incomplete”.

Coun Lawson said: “I worry about the amount of time council has had to spend on this application when services are already stretched to capacity.

“I have called for the traffic impact of the developments around Chain Bar junction to be looked at together.

“I take heart from the emphasis that National Highways have put on the Strategic Road Network as being managed in the public interest. That’s a massive message to applicants to take seriously the consequences of their developments.”

Coun Pinnock said: “How can it be that the biggest planning application that Kirklees has ever had can be submitted with a traffic assessment containing figures that are totally inaccurate?”