'There hasn’t been a death yet but there will be' - Mirfield roads can’t cope with new housing says councillor

Councillor Vivien Lees-Hamilton at Granny Lane in Hopton Bottom, Mirfield. She says the land forms a natural ampitheatre that will channel water into an already flood-heavy area
Councillor Vivien Lees-Hamilton at Granny Lane in Hopton Bottom, Mirfield. She says the land forms a natural ampitheatre that will channel water into an already flood-heavy area

A mass programme of house-building set for Kirklees over the next decade will overwhelm the borough’s roads.

That’s the fear of one councillor who says some rural routes are already beyond saturation point.

And as local and commuter traffic grows, so the risk of someone being killed gets closer.

Councillor Vivien Lees-Hamilton says semi-rural areas of Mirfield have become cut-throughs for “a huge influx of traffic” seeking to avoid the town centre or heading to Barnsley and the M1.

And she backs residents of Granny Lane, in Hopton Bottom, who believe a new housing estate close to the River Calder will only add to already congested roads in a notorious area prone to flooding.

Coun Lees-Hamilton describes the area as “a natural amphitheatre” in which water flows down to an ancient floodplain. If built on she says the water will only be able to run out onto Granny Lane.

“I’ve lived here for more than 20 years. Back then Hopton Lane was so quiet, it was heaven.

“Now I might as well live at the side of the main road. It’s not all local traffic. It’s a combination of local traffic and transient traffic.

“That transient traffic is adding to the burden of busy junctions.”

The winding road that begins as Steanard Lane and which becomes Granny Lane, Hopton Lane and Hollin Hall Lane is narrow and periodically floods following heavy rainfall or when the river bursts its banks.

Members of the newly-formed Granny Lane Area Action Group (GLAAG) say the proposed entrance into a proposed estate of 67 houses on pastureland west of Grade II listed Sheep Ings Farm is wholly unsuitable.

They believe large-scale construction vehicles will struggle to get in and out, putting nearby properties at risk.

GLAAG has now appointed a highways consultant to take their fight over accessibility and safety to Kirklees Council.

Coun Lees-Hamilton (Con, Mirfield) says “challenging” local roads have also been impacted by over-intensive housing.

“There are only three ways out of Hopton: Newgate, Station Road, and Steanard Lane. They are already past capacity.

“Kirklees highways engineers said in 2004 that the traffic lights on the Station Road junction were at saturation point.

“The roads were overwhelmed then. Taking into account all the new housing and the traffic it’s got to be 100 times worse.”

She encouraged Kirklees Council to look urgently at rising traffic levels to prevent a fatality before one occurs.

“There hasn’t been a death yet but there will be. Why are we waiting for a death?

“People can say that the [accident] statistics show that there are no concerns but statistics don’t show driver attitudes and what their focus is.

“Being stuck in traffic puts the panic on people. Drivers can get angry.

“Frustration and helplessness equals rage. It’s what’s driving the drivers. That’s when things go wrong.

“Why, when it comes to highways, should we wait for anyone to die? That is one of the most archaic, stupid and draconian things that I have ever heard.

“It’s about being proactive instead of being reactive. We need to future-proof things. Instead it’s always on the back foot or after somebody has died.

“It doesn’t need action now. It needed action 20 years ago.”

The Granny Lane development by Wakefield-based Miller Homes is part of Kirklees’ Local Plan.

An order from the government, the Local Plan includes 31,000 homes, many of which will have to be built within the green belt, as there is insufficient non-green belt land in the borough.