Kirklees Council leader urged to 'come clean' over Amazon warehouse plan
The Labour leader of Kirklees Council has been urged to “come clean” over his perceived support for a huge distribution centre linked to online retail giant Amazon.
Conservatives say Coun Shabir Pandor needs to outline his involvement in the controversial development, which is earmarked for 59 acres of farmland off junction 26 of the M62 near Cleckheaton.
But Coun Pandor has said he was working to support Kirklees Council’s huge regeneration plans for the borough and hit back at opposition rivals for using local people “as a political football”.
And he challenged local Tories to prove that Amazon would be the end user of the scheme, saying he had had “no contact” with the company.
Coun Pandor has faced criticism and formal complaints for appearing to suggest he was backing unpopular proposals for the warehouse scheme.
Speaking in August at a meeting of the council’s overview and scrutiny management committee, Coun Pandor said: “You’ll also be aware that 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.”
Local Conservative campaigner Piers Briggs said Coun Pandor’s comments could be interpreted as meaning he was seeking to get the application approved.
Mr Briggs said: “He now needs to set out what ‘doing his best’ involved. What meetings or conversations did he have? What representations has he made to whom? Who else in his cabinet was involved?
“Residents have a right to know the answers to these questions.”
Mr Briggs was backed by Coun David Hall, Leader of the Conservative group on Kirklees Council.
He said: “Only a few weeks ago, Conservative councillors moved a motion at council to remove Kirklees Cabinet members from planning committees, so that decisions there are more transparent, and to remove any accusation that applications are being pushed through by the Labour administration.
“The Labour Party voted that motion down.
“We now have the Labour leader openly admitting to being involved behind the scenes in trying to bring about one of the biggest greenfield planning applications we have seen.
“Coun Pandor and the Labour Party need to come clean now about their involvement in this episode.
"Their hugely damaging actions and remarks are rapidly diminishing residents’ trust in our local planning process.”
Coun Pandor gave the comments short shrift and rejected any suggestion that he had attempted to influence a decision on the Cleckheaton site.
He said: “My job is to fly the flag for Kirklees and to support investment into our communities.
“That’s what I’m doing with the biggest-ever investment plan we have passed since Kirklees was set up, our £250m investment plans for Huddersfield.
“That’s what I’m doing with £50m for Dewsbury.
“And that’s what I’m doing for millions of pounds of infrastructure investment into Batley, Cleckheaton, Heckmondwike and Holmfirth.”
He added: “What I won’t be doing is influencing any of the planning decisions associated with any of the major investment coming into Kirklees.
“That is all done through a process that is strictly – and rightly – set out in law.
"It will be for the planning committee – not me – to weigh up the planning evidence, consider the views of local people and then make decisions based on their own assessment of the facts.
“That’s the way a good planning system should work.
“Local Tories would do well to practise what they preach and stop using residents as a political football.
“If the Tories know it’s Amazon, then maybe they need to talk to the multi-national firm to come clean as I certainly have had no contact with them.”