Discussion Forum

Melbourne works development

Posted by Jim
Monday, November 29, 2004

I was very disappointed to recently learn that Calderdale council have passed plans for the conversion of Melbourne Works into 16 residential premises. After being originally rejected by Hebden Royd , Calderdale have let the plans through. This will mean the closure of Northlight Studios, which will be a great loss to Hebdens diverse community. I just hope they can find alternative premises to run the studios from. It really is about time that people started to realise how much is owed to people like the artists working in Northlight studios. They have been instrumental in shaping Hebden Bridge into what it is today and indeed why it is such an appealing and sought after place to live. Changes like this will nibble away at the town s heart and Hebden Bridge could descend into becoming like every other commutable small town in the country, instead of the interesting and diverse place that it is.

I really struggle to see the reasoning why the council would pass plans for this conversion when 17 artists and a profitable business currently occupy the mill. The residents of Melbourne Street and the Hangingroyd road area must be very concerned about the additional parking that will be required for these premises. And I am sure the developers of Melbourne Mill are relieved that most of their apartments are reserved, as I am sure prospective purchasers would have similar concerns. The total impact of both developments means 34 additional residential properties in what is already an area that is short of car parking provision. Apparently concerns about parking were dismissed at the planning meeting on the basis that as the properties are so close to rail and bus links that most of the residents wont need to own cars. This is na ve to the point of being ridiculous. Even if the new residents use local transport links to commute to and from work, a large percentage of them will still have at least 1 car for recreational use. Unless the council are going to make a brave step and ensure that the developer writes a clause into the deeds of the properties that stipulates that the owners must not own motor vehicles Hmm that s almost as na ve as presuming that the residents won t want to own cars.

There should be something that can we do as a community to try and ensure that this situation doesn t get any worse. Is there anything we can do to help Northlight Studios? Is there anything we can do to make plans that could have an effect on the wider community more in the public eye? With the closure of the adult ed centre and its imminent sell off and the future of other places of community importance in jeopardy, I am worried about the future of the town.

Posted by Andrew Hall,
Monday, November 29, 2004

I share Jim's views. In the 25 years I've lived here, the town has changed almost beyond recognition.

The trouble is that Hebden Bridge is too successful. It's got such a lot going for it - excellent public transport, spectacular scenery, and within commuting distance of three major metropolitan areas. It's hardly surprising that developers want to develop, and people want to move in to the area.

The trouble is that, with every new mill conversion or plot of executive homes, the town loses a bit of its soul. It becomes more anodyne, more ordinary, more boring. Its character is being destroyed. Even going to the pub in Hebden Bridge these days, the accents are much more Hounslow than Halifax.

One of the problems with Hebden Bridge is that it's living a lie, and this lie is being conveyed to the people who move in in their droves. It really is not the quaint and oh-so-pretty town that it seems to be. It was built on cruelty, exploitation and child abuse. It witnessed poverty as bad as anywhere in the West Riding. Its graveyards are full of the adolescent and pre-adolescent dead. Its mills employed, in preference, pre-teen children, because, after the age of 13, they became more truculent and less easy to coerce. I could not conceive living in a mill conversion knowing the suffering and torment that it once bore witness to.

I appreciate you cannot live in the past, and Hebden Bridge should not become a museum, but equally, we should not forget the town's history.

It's not a question of resisting change at all cost. Some change is unquestionably for the better. What we do need to consider is whether such change benefits the community, or is there to feather the nest of developers. As the past few months have clearly demonstrated, there are people living in or near Hebden Bridge who are happy to put their personal gain ahead of the interests of the town. Fortunately, there are enough people around to realise this, and to do something about it.