Amazon site should be given over to a 'more suitable scheme', says critic

Retail giant Amazon has been urged to drop its controversial plan to build a huge fulfilment centre close to the M62 in Scholes near Cleckheaton and clear the way for “a more suitable” scheme.

By Tony Earnshaw, Local Democracy Reporting Service
Friday, 8th July 2022, 2:00 pm

The call by a leading Liberal Democrat comes after National Highways recommended that planning permission for the facility is not granted until a critical traffic assessment is fully completed. That could be as late as December.

The letter to Kirklees Council by National Highways, the Government-owned company responsible for maintaining motorways and A roads in England, represents a formal recommendation and has also been copied to the Department of Transport.

The body’s intervention prompted a question to the council’s decision-making cabinet from Coun John Lawson (Lib Dem, Cleckheaton), who said by December the proposal will have been in the authority’s planning system for almost two years. He is backing local people who object to the proposal.

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John Lawson with ward colleague Kath Pinnock close to the proposed Amazon site at Scholes near the M62

He said: “How long do you think it’s reasonable for an application to be in our planning system, and how many bites of the apple do you think it should it have?”

Council Leader Coun Shabir Pandor (Lab. Batley West) was reluctant to make a comment “to safeguard myself, and ensure there is probity and transparency” and preferred to ask officers to provide a response after the meeting.

“Already I’ve been highlighted in the media for something I’ve not been involved with.”

Coun Pandor was criticised last year after appearing to support the plan when he said “we’re going to have a big distribution company coming into Kirklees. I’m trying my best to actually get the one-and-a-half thousand jobs in place.”

An illustrative masterplan of how the proposed Amazon distribution centre near Cleckheaton could look

However, Coun Graham Turner (Lab, Golcar) said National Highways’ letter was being looked into and that once concerns had been resolved “the process of planning will proceed”.

Speaking after the meeting, Coun Lawson said: “There is a misunderstanding among some applicants that because land is allocated for development in the Local Plan it means permission must be granted, regardless of the quality of the scheme.

“I’m concerned that this scheme will hang around in the hope of bungling it over the line after a process of ‘attrition’.

Amazon needs to withdraw the application as soon as possible and look elsewhere.

"They need to leave the way clear for a more suitable business application that will deliver the benefits without the massive harm.”

The Amazon centre is earmarked for 59 acres of farmland between Whitehall Road, Whitechapel Road and the M62 in Scholes.

It would be a third of a kilometre long, 178m wide and 23m high and could employ up to 2,400 people.

The site forms part of the council’s controversial Local Plan. And even though its scope “exceeds the development capacity” outlined in the Local Plan’s allocation document, it would contribute towards the council’s target of delivering 23,000 jobs by 2031.

On that basis officers have said the introduction of an employment facility on the site “is acceptable in principle”.

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Highways chiefs intervene over Amazon warehouse scheme near Cleckheaton