Mill Pond: response from Green Tops

Thursday, October 7, 2004

We have received this communication from Green Tops. We will, of course, be happy to post any replies

Dear Hebweb

We would be pleased to open up some sensible dialogue with you and the residents in the vicinity of the millpond but do you not think your article "Illegally Felled" is misleading ?

The trees were felled entirely legally following all the correct procedures. The trees were specifically excluded from the TPO by Calderdale Council because they are undermining the bank supporting Windsor View and damaging the fragile wall to Spring Grove.

This was confirmed by both our structural engineer and the Council's and can easily be seen to be the case.

The police were called by Binns & Co to have people trespassing on the site removed. The police had been informed by us before the felling started as had Calderdale Council.

The site has been checked for bat roosts.

Do you not think the safety of the children playing in the gardens behind Spring Grove below a dangerous 30 foot wall should be considered ? We are sure you would be the first to criticise us if someone is killed by stone falling from the wall. Likewise you would not be happy to see the road in front of Windsor View collapse into the millpond.

We would like to discuss proposals with you but think that putting incorrect information about our legitimate and legal attempts to remove trees to repair collapsing walls is not the way to proceed.

We look forward to hearing from you.

Perhaps you would like to publish this email for your readers comments.

Green Tops


Reply from Elaine Connell at Windsor Road

It is good to finally receive a message from Green Tops - if it is genuine. But I do wonder if reputable businesses rely on Hotmail for their email correspondence?

The trees showing on the Hebden Bridge Web were healthy ones in the area protected by the TPO. The trees cut down were all in the centre - no-where near the walls.

The whole area is used by bats for foraging and is therefore protected under legislation.

Time and again, the new owners of the land have behaved in an underhand way. A year ago they sent some young lads in with chain saws to illegally fell protected trees. A few months ago, they lied to the council by telling one department that planning permission was already given - so they could persuade another department to move a lamp-post. Now they have charged in and again felled trees protected by the TPO.

During all this time, residents have tried to initiate a dialogue with the owners but they have insisted upon remaining anonymous. Time and again, we have asked their "agents" for details and they have refused to tell us anything.

Little wonder, residents have little faith or confidence and expect these news owners, whoever they turn out to be, are only interested in a quick buck. If they destroy some precious Hebden Bridge landscape in the process, they can always liquidate, move on, create another company, and so it goes.


Reply from Graham Barker of Spring Grove

For information: according to Companies House, a Green Tops Ltd is registered at 12 York Place, Leeds LS1 2DS. It was incorporated on 28 January 2004 and its company no is 05028206. Its only listed director is Richard Garth Broome (born 1972) of Tregarron Farm, Trowan Vene, St Ives, Cornwall TR26 3AE. Could this be 'our' Green Tops?

In general the tone of the communication seems reasonable and the willingness to enter into dialogue is to be welcomed.

However, on the specific point of the 'dangerous 30 foot wall' I have these points to make.

1 I've lived in Spring Grove at the 'high end' of the retaining wall since the houses were built. I know of no structural problem whatsoever with the wall. I've spoken to neighbours and as far as I can gather the only known problem was with a tree overhanging a garden much further down Spring Grove, where the wall is much lower (in fact, past the point where the original retaining wall ended). This does rather call into question the validity of the claim to want 'to remove trees to repair collapsing walls'.

2 If the wall problem is as dire as alleged, shouldn't the site owners or Calderdale Council have provided Spring Grove residents with at least some warning before now? It's surely irresponsible not to.

3 Development of the millpond site for housing will represent a much more serious threat to the stability of the Spring Grove wall than any number of trees. It's therefore difficult to take seriously Green Tops' concern for my and other Spring Grove residents' safety unless they're prepared to state publicly that they will not build on, develop or in other ways significantly disturb this site.


Reply from Steve Wilinsky of Windsor Road

I was very excited to see that we finally had some communication with 'Green Tops'. I then had to laugh a little when I saw it was a Hotmail address. For a company that has existed for over a year you would think they could at least have signed up with AOL or BT.

I would have liked to be present at the Green Tops board meeting when they were discussing how to set up their public face to instill trust and open lines of communication with the local community.

Director A: Should we invest £20 to get ourselves an email address for Green Tops so we can create some open and honest lines of communication with the local residents who we have been hiding from for the past year?

Director B: No. Lets go with Hotmail - an address so respected almost no financial institution will allow you to use their address for opening a bank account.

Director C: I think you're right - that way we can look like we're trying to open up some lines of communication but still remain completely hidden.

Director A: But won't that make them think we're still trying to hide?

Director B: Fuck 'em - I know twelve men with chain saws

Director A: OK sounds good. How should we close this open and honest communication? Should we all sign our names or just one of us?

Director B: Just sign it Green Tops, we don't want to be too open.

Director A: But won't that make them think we're still trying to hide?

Director B: Fuck 'em I know twelve men with chain saws

Then I read the letter and it all became clear. They think an anonymous email address, signed with an anonymous company name, using York Place as a registered address is open and honest.

The contents of the letter states: "We would be pleased to open up some sensible dialogue with you and the residents in the vicinity of the millpond"

We have been trying to open dialogue with the owners for about a year now but they have and still do forbid any of their 'agents' from identifying them.

"The trees were felled entirely legally following all the correct procedures. The trees were specifically excluded from the TPO by Calderdale Council because they are undermining the bank supporting Windsor View and damaging the fragile wall to Spring Grove."

I can't state that these trees were included or excluded from the TPO during site meetings with the council because they refuse to allow any of the community representatives to attend any site meetings with the council (another example of their desire for open dialogue).

What I can say is that none of the trees that were cut down were on the borders or near the walls. Additionally, one of the tree cutters said 'All these trees are coming down so we can build ten houses' and one of their agents has distributed plans showing the whole of the mill pond area cleared of trees except for the area bordering the walls. The only thing the removed trees were undermining were the owners aspirations to build ten houses and make loads of money.

"The police were called by Binns & Co to have people trespassing on the site removed. "

My wife called the police. When the police arrived they were very friendly to all the residents and there was no attempt to remove 'trespassers' as no one was trespassing.

"Do you not think the safety of the children playing in the gardens behind Spring Grove below a dangerous 30 foot wall should be considered ? We are sure you would be the first to criticise us if someone is killed by stone falling from the wall."

I like the use of child safety, very emotive. Unfortunately having lived on Windsor Road for over ten years and on Spring Grove for a couple of years before that I have not heard of any problems with the mill pond falling into Spring Grove gardens.

If this is an issue that the developer is very concerned about, why are the trees being removed in the centre of the millpond and not near the wall? (Where they are excluded from the TPO for this very reason)

If the owner would like to open some lines of communication they should feel free to email me with contact details. My name is Steve Wilinsky and my email address is steve@wilinsky.com, but I have a strange feeling the most I will get is an anonymous email from an anonymous company, depending on deception and intimidation to make a quick pound.

Please prove me wrong.

Steve Wilinsky
36 Windsor Road
Hebden Bridge
HX7 8LF
Steve@wilinsky.com


Reply from Melanie Elliott of Mirfield

Even looking at this matter objectively from the outside, as I live in Mirfield but am a frequest visitor to Hebden Bridge and surrounding areas, it seems this is a simple case of the new owner using 'bully boy' tactics to achieve what he wants: namely clear land.

If he nibbles away at the trees by small and frequent attempts to remove them, each time claiming he is in the right, he will soon achieve what he wants and there will be no trees left to protect any more.

If he lives in Cornwall it seems it is NIMBY - not in my back yard.

Go away 'Green Tops'. Sell the land back to someone who cares about local heritage and develop land next to your own home.


Reply from J Thomas of Windsor Road

'The trees were felled entirely legally' - the trees were marked on the morning that they were felled by the owner's agent and the chainsaw gang. The trees felled were not those growing out of or even approximately near to the retaining wall. They represent a swathe right down the middle, such as might be useful for moving large clearing equipment through, for example.

'The site has been checked for bat roosts', by someone engaged by Greentops, who confirmed the presence of bat roosts.

Binns and company - 'is it normal to send out so many tree-fellers on this sort of job' local resident to tree worker - 'oh no there is usually only a couple of us'. They came with the specific task of removing as many trees as possible before being challenged by local residents. They came with the specific intention of removing as many of the trees in the path of their proposals which they were not legally or legitamately permitted to remove.

Greentops is quite correct, nobody would be happy to see the road in front of Windsor View collapse. However, none of the work done on "Chainsaw Wednesday" could in any way, shape or form be called remedial work.

Greentops has heard from us on many occassions via the agents and the council. We, however, have not heard directly from them on any occasion until now; they refuse even to be named. They failed to attend any of the planning committee meetings at which the TPO was discussed and confirmed. Those meetings would have been a great place for 'sensible dialogue'.

This site is structurally unsuitable for development. It is a wet woodland area, a former millpond with high water levels. There is a delicate balance between the fauna - bats, owls, woodpeckers etc. and the structural requirements of two significant retaining walls. There is no easy or legitimate access other then on foot. The 'agent' produced a bizarre plan for development yesterday. Whilst everyone is clear on the eventual intention (even the council's officers stated during the TPO planning committee meeting that the owners/agents had expressed their desire to land clear this site on more that one occassion), this action and development by stealth is morally, if not legally, corrupt. Enough - on the millpond site, in the Calder valley and throughout the country.


Reply from Mark Gibson
Saturday, October 9, 2004

I have two young kids who play in the back yard. I personally spoke to one of the structural engineers who came out and he said that the wall is Victorian and looks to be in need of maintenance. I don't want to take any risks with my kids and think its obvious that a 30 foot wall retaining tons of soil and trees is going to need maintenance at some point either now or in the future.

I'm not particularly in favour of cutting down trees but would rather that than someone gets hurt. I cant afford to be repairing the wall myself.

Why dont the protestors ask the Council to tell them whether the wall needs repairs?


Reply from Green tops
Saturday, October 9, 2004

Dear Hebweb

Thank you for posting our letter on the website. We are pleased to enter into some dialogue since this matter is getting frustrating to all involved.

We have had complaints from two residents on Spring Grove and one on Windsor View about the condition of the walls.

The wall to Spring Grove is the remains of the old Foster Mill and was build about 150 years ago as one of the walls of the mill. It was never designed to be a freestanding retaining wall.

As we have said two independent structural engineers (one appointed by the Council) have confirmed this. The Council s report was by John Newton & Partners on 23rd July 2004. To quote, "The main concern from a structural point of view is the trees growing from the various retaining structures, walls and old masonry structures. Trees growing in such locations cause damage to the structures. Damage is mainly due to the structural roots of the trees which expand causing damage to the stone structures. There were locations, particularly along Windsor View and to the dam structure to the back of Spring Grove, where the trees have grown to such a height that they are causing movement (rotational) forces on the walls. I would strongly recommend that these be removed before further damage is caused to these vulnerable structures."

With such strong advice from the Council s own structural engineer we are legally obliged to act to prevent anyone being injured by falling stonework.

It would be helpful if a representative of the residents can be appointed so that our representative, Mark, can provide him / her copies of this and the other reports.

We would add that we have had complaints from a number of people on Windsor View who want the trees directly in front of their underdwellings removed since they are entirely blocking their light and views.

In response to your comments about secrecy and our email address we would comment that we have sent our Structural Engineer, Arboricultural Consultant and site agent on site. All have spent many hours talking to residents. All have received abuse and threats of violence. This sort of behaviour does not encourage dialogue.

We understand that people want to protect trees but this is not simply an issue of trees but affects public safety.

If you would like to appoint a representative we would be happy to try to discuss the way forward. We still need to fell the trees damaging the retaining walls and would rather do it with residents cooperation. Would residents consent to work if it is monitored by someone from the Council and police ?

We look forward to recieving people's comments.


Reply from Elaine Connell
Saturday, October 9, 2004

The second Green Tops message, and the message from Mark Gibson, suggest those objecting to development are not concerned about the walls. This is completely untrue. Right from when this first became an issue, everyone has expressed serious concern about the walls. They must be maintained and maintained properly.

But most local residents have little faith that the current owners have any interest in looking after the walls. It is clear that some of the trees near or in the wall need urgent attention. However, it could be that just cutting them down will make matters worse. They have been there so long that their roots have integrated with the structure of the walls. Cutting some trees may lead to an even more serious degradation of the wall. Residents should be closely consulted before anything is done to jeopardise the walls

When the owners sent their chainsaws in last Wednesday, they didn't cut trees which pose any hazard to the people or walls. They cut down healthy trees in the middle, especially ones that had been covered by the TPO.

Have you seen the plans? They are going to refill the Mill Pond with water when they've cut down the trees. I wouldn't like to be living on Spring Grove at the time of the first heavy downpour after they've done that.

How are they going to gain access? Historically, access to this land was through Spring Grove. There is no other access. They can't get in through Windsor View. It is a private road, and much of the wall is owned by Windsor View residents. Even supposing they could gain entry that way, they would have to raise the ground considerably on the other side, just where the land is narrowest. The Spring Grove wall would have to be considerably rebuilt, and I would be very nervous if I lived underneath.


Reply from Green Tops
Tuesday, October 12, 2004

Thank you for posting our emails and for your readers comments on your website. We think it is useful to be discussing our proposals for this site.

We understand that people do not wish to see trees unnecessarily removed but assure you that it is essential that certain trees are removed to prevent further damage to the walls. The mere act of removing the offending trees will stop the continued expansion of their roots and the pressure they are putting on the walls as they move in the wind.

We note the sentiments of the campaign the Keep the Millpond Green and can confirm that the trees in the foreground of your photograph taken from Slater Bank will remain. We will not be removing the healthy trees from along the riverbank and in fact our proposal will enable us to plant an area of new healthy trees and to properly manage the existing tree stock. The area will remain green and benefit from a new area of blue !

The trees to be removed are self-seeded and are of mainly less valuable species of Goat Willow (often considered a weed) and Silver Birch. They are not healthy trees because they are growing in waterlogged ground in the base of the old millpond and because they have been damaged by coppicing by the former owners. Many of the trees are rotting due to the fact that they are standing in water.

The new planting on the other hand will be of carefully selected species and can be done in properly prepared soil. We will be taking professional advice on exactly what to plant but would be happy to receive any suggestions from your readers. We would be more than happy for the local community to be involved in the new planting.

We think that the ecological benefits of reinstating the millpond will be considerable since it will recreate a valuable and wetland habitat.

To quote from the Ponds Conservation Trust Some three quarters (more than a million) of Britain s Ponds have been lost over the last hundred years. Ponds are needed to provide: a unique biodiversity resource, rich in species of plants, invertebrates and amphibians; an important part of our history, culture and past agricultural practices; a visual focus in many landscapes; an amenity for many communities and a source of recreation and education . Consequently there is an initiative to encourage the improvement and restoration of ponds by the Ponds Conservation Trust, Environment Agency and English Nature. We have been taking advice on this aspect.

Please see:
  • www.environment-agency.gov.uk/eff/water/213866/ponds/?lang=_e
  • www.pondstrust.org.uk
  • In response to two of your readers comments we would point out that to be a valuable wildlife resource and wetland habitat we are advised that at the margins the pond should not be very deep. Therefore once the retaining walls have been repaired they will not be holding back a considerable weight of water. Flooding will not be an issue since an overflow will be created to maintain the correct pond level.

    One of your readers will also be pleased to know that we will in the next few days have a new email address of Info@green-tops.co.uk and a web site of www.green-tops.co.uk. We hope that shows that we are listening to your comments !

    We are sure that despite some of the concerns being raised the suggestion of restoring the millpond and creating a valuable wetland habitat is worthy of support. Furthermore we would like to think that people will support Hebden Bridge s first eco housing initiative since many people have been calling for it for some time. We have been taking inspiration form the BedZED scheme and will be using it as a model for our miniature version please see: www.bedzed.org.uk/about.htm

    We look forwards to your comments and hopefully some community support!


    Reply from Dave Boardman of Victoria Road
    Tuesday, October 12, 2004

    If this is a local organisation which says it wants eco housing and a bio-diverse woodland with pond... why didn't they come along and invite everyone to discuss their ideas before starting this conflict? Has anyone asked them that?

    There are many in this area who support eco housing and if this is an eco housing project there are many in opposition who may come around during an open and frank discussion process. The fact they behave like traditional developers trampling over people's community is what makes people concerned about them ... and means we don't really believe their last minute cries of eco-concern.


    Reply from Graham Barker of Spring Grove
    Tuesday, October 12, 2004

    Immediate reactions:

    • Far too much of the developer's activity is anonymous. They should be required to state publicly who they are and what their stakeholdings in Hebden Bridge are. For example, is it the Green Tops Ltd registered in Leeds but with its sole director resident in Cornwall? If not, they could be trading illegally under a name that's already taken.

    • If the Ponds Conservation Trust and Environment Agency 'are enthusiastic about the proposal', let's have some documented proof. I'm willing to bet there isn't any. There seems generally to be a shortage of first-hand proof of anything from their side.

    • As pure PR it scores highly and we shouldn't underestimate its potency. Persuading others that the developers appear to be using half-truths, deceit and wilful disregard for regulation to get their way may be difficult without risking libel. Not impossible though!

    Reply from R. L. Stevenson (aka Steve Wilinsky) of Windsor Road
    Tuesday, October 12, 2004

    Firstly I would like to thank Green Tops for not letting me down. Your reply was as expected.

    It has taken me a couple of days to respond because I was left completely lost for words by the double blow administered by the response from Green Tops (who I will refer to as Dr J for simplicity) and the development plan circulated by their agent (Mr H) received within hours of each other.

    After spending many hours in a darkened room I think I have managed to recover and piece together what is going on.

    Dr J is a hard working altruistic philanthropic environmentalist living in the south of the country who heard about the dangerous state of the millpond wall. He has therefore decided to buy the land in order to provide the necessary maintenance. As with all true great philanthropists Dr J wanted to remain anonymous. In order to avoid the spotlight and outpouring of emotion, he did the sensible thing and found himself a local agent Mr H, his public face.

    Unfortunately Mr H was not what Dr J had expected. By putting the responsibility of this land in his hands he has created a chainsaw-wielding monster.

    After reading Dr. J's response, and realising how concerned he is for our community I'm sure he will do everything possible to rectify this situation and return us to that utopia he is trying to protect.

    Some facts, which need clarifying, are:

    1) At no point did the residents object to the removal of trees, which were endangering the wall. I think everyone agrees that the stability of the walls is quite important. Even us simple locals realise that if the road supporting our houses crumbles into the mill pond our houses may not last very long. Having just painted my window frames I would not want that to happen. The residents spoke in favour of the TPO, which excluded the boundary trees. It was Dr J / Mr H who requested a change to the TPO boundaries 'for health and safety reasons' which strangely coincide with the proposed housing development.

    2) Simply removing trees from the top of the wall will not rectify the problem. The roots of the trees have effectively formed wedges and while they are putting pressure on the wall they are also holding stonework in place. When the trees are removed the roots will begin to decompose. This will remove the pressure and leave the stones free to move and fall. I am assuming that Dr J has enlisted the services of a qualified engineering company to actually fix the wall once the trees are removed. I would hate to think this was just some ploy from Mr H to get chainsaws on the millpond.

    3) Can Dr J please explain why trees in the centre of the mill pond were removed. If this was just over zealousness on the part of Mr H for his housing development, our friend and protector Dr J should put up his hand, admit the error and replace the trees he inadvertently removed.

    4) I was very concerned to read that people were being threatened and intimidated when they entered the millpond. I accept that my wife (all five foot three of her) is quite fierce and I could imagine how the site of her approach could put the fear of god into twelve men with chainsaws. I'll have a word with her about it. Additionally I'll ensure that in future when we bring tea to workers or invite them into our houses we will also provide biscuits. Maybe that will stop them from feeling so threatened. In exchange for this maybe Dr J will inform us when he is sending Mr H and his minions to do some vital safety work so we can meet them to discuss what is going to happen. I'm sure this will save everyone lots of time and money.

    5) As we are all now trying to be warm and fuzzy with each other, is it perhaps time to stand up in the spotlight yourself? It's hard to have a group hug with someone hiding behind a tree.


    Reply from Tomas Remiarz of Broughton Street
    Wednesday, October 13, 2004

    Surely, to send in a handful of guys with chainsaws, without producing a decent management plan, respecting tree protection orders or consulting the local community is not the way to improve a supposedly poor habitat. It also makes a farce of the claimed green credentials of the proposed Steepfields development. At this point it seems highly unlikely that Calderdale Council would risk allowing any building on this site against unanimous local resistance.

    Regarding public safety, the developers weren't at all concerned about this when they sent in the guys with the tree "surgeons". They didn't even care about the safety of their workforce. Anybody who's ever done this kind of work knows that for health & safety reasons you don't send in more that two people to work in an area this size (unless of course you wan to create maximum destruction in a minimum amount of time).

    That's not to say the mill pond area couldn't be improved, both for the existing wildlife and local residents. I would be happy to be involved with a group of interested people who'd want to help with this process. Such a group would have to involve independent ecologists, local residents and the owners of the land. Is anybody up for that?

    Reply from Green Tops
    Friday, October 15, 2004

    We think Tomas Remiarz's suggestion is a good one and would be more than willing to attend such a meeting. Councillor Michael Taylor has kindly offered to chair such a meeting. We would like an opportunity to clearly present our proposals and listen to any concerns of local residents.

    Our proposal it not intended as a cynical attempt to squeeze value from our piece of land but an innovative reuse of an area which has been neglected for many years by previous landowners. If we had approached this cynically surely we would be proposing 25 cheaply constructed unimaginative 'luxury" apartments. Instead we are proposing ten eco-houses and the reinstatement of the millpond as a wildlife habitat with safe public access.

    We are gradually putting more information on our web site ( www.green-tops.co.uk ) and would welcome and questions or suggestions.


    Reply from Steve Wilinsky of Windsor Road
    Saturday, October 16, 2004

    Dear Mr Hatter

    I would be delighted to attend your tea party.

    Yours
    The White Rabbit

    I find it very hard to take the offer seriously when you still refuse to use your name.

    I assume when we show up at the meeting we will be able to recognise you because you will be the group at the corner table wearing the balaclavas.

    If you are serious about this meeting can you please:

    • Provide the names of the directors and shareholders in Green Tops.
    • Provide the names of those who will be attending the meeting.
    I don't know how you can think that your approach has been anything but cynical.
    • You have hidden behind an anonymous company.
    • Twice you have sent men in to destroy trees that were protected by a TPO.
    • You have lied to the council to get a lamp post moved.
    • You have used a councillor to propose an alternative TPO that excluded the land you wish to build on, siting maintenance of the wall.
    • You have used the state of the wall as an excuse for removing trees that are no where near the 'dangerous' wall.
    • The proposal of eco housing is good business. Any other option would not stand a chance in a planning hearing. Once you have planning permission for that land, changing the plans to maximise profit is much simpler. If that's not cynical I don't know what is.

    Up until now you have hidden, your agents have repeatedly ignored council TPOs and lied to council officers. If you are trying to win the support of the local community a little bit of honesty will be a good start.


    Reply from Andrew Hall
    Monday, October 18, 2004

    I've done two things today. One is to look at Green Tops' website and the second is to visit the millpond in question.

    My impression of the millpond itself is that something urgently needs to be done to it. It's a mess - another old run down industrial site, colonised by self seeded vegetation and with a dank and foetid feel about it. Looks fine from a distance but it leaves much to be desired close up.

    Greentops plans for the area are, to coin a phrase, good in parts. It would be great to have an area of managed woodland together with a proper pond. That would be an asset to the area, and I'm sure none of the residents would object.

    What spoils their plans is the awful eco-housing they are proposing. If the pictures on the website are anything to go by, the development will look not unlike a cross between a German prisoner-of-war camp and something out of a Tarzan movie. Quite simply, it just ain't on, and as one of your correspondents has pointed out, if Green Tops get planning permission for their 'eco' plans, then it wont be long before revised plans for executive style houses are submitted.

    It would be good if Green Tops would categorically deny that this would ever happen. I wonder if they are prepared to do that, knowing that everything said on this bulletin board is permanently archived and can be retrieved in future years (am I right, Chris?)

    I can only endorse what has been said about the anonymity of Green Tops. My feeling is it's someone local. Don't be fooled by the company registration details. Any fool can buy an off-the-shelf company for £50.

    If only there could be a bit more honesty in this whole debate.

    If building ever takes place (which of course, it will. Developers have a habit of persisting, and using every trick in the book to get their way), surely a nice row of traditional stone faced terraced houses would be perfect for that location, and complement the other terraces in the area.

    There - I've upset both sides now!


    Reply from Angie Wright of 23/25 Windsor View
    Monday, October 18, 2004

    Whilst recognising the strength of opinion against the proposed development of the millpond site, I don't agree with the majority of views expressed up to now and feel increasingly uncomfortable about keeping silent on this issue.

    Rod and I have been concerned for quite sometime, certainly before any development was mentioned, about the condition of the retaining wall on Windsor View and the possibly very high cost involved in repairing it.

    We are also concerned about the extent to which those trees nearest the wall in front of our house block the light and views from our windows and we would prefer those trees to be removed or kept from growing too high.

    We do not object in principle to houses being built on this site and would prefer to see a co-operative approach with developers so that we as residents could get something for ourselves such as help with repairing the wall and possibly other environmental improvements such as improved car parking provision at the end of the street and resurfacing of Windsor View itself.


    Reply from Rod Gibson of 23/25 Windsor View
    Monday, October 18, 2004

    The retaining wall outside number 19 Windsor View is beginning to show signs of crumbling, and the road surface is collapsing. Development or no development, major structural repairs to this wall are becoming essential before the subsidence begins to affect the structural integrity of the houses on Windsor View and Windsor Road. If those repairs can be tied in to a tasteful development of the millpond area all well and good, if not then we residents could be left with a repair bill which will far exceed the resources we, as private individuals, have available. Major structural repair work might also require heavy plant equipment to have access to the millpond area, resulting in environmental damage. Let's not be too quick to throw out the baby with the bathwater here...


    Reply from Chris of Windsor Road
    Monday, October 18, 2004

    Andrew, the developers don't always win - as you imply at the end of your message. The cynical "ecohouses" scheme is almost identical to the one planned for the side of Linden Mill that was recently thrown by Calderdale. For years, developers wanted to build houses on the land at the front of Windsor Road - the Delph. Residents campaigned and had it established as the first Village Green under the new legislation of early 90s. When the developers subsequently went bust, the residents bought the land for the use of everybody.

    No-one objects to development taking place in appropriate areas - I think there may be some ideal spots up your way at Eaves. :-) But this piece of land has absolutely no access, is part of the green corridor to the Crags and is an essential visual asset for this part of Hebden Bridge. If the inappropriate development of expensive housing which is going on all over the town doesn't slow down, we are in serious danger of destroying the very beauty which attracted people like you and me here in the first place.


    Reply from Andrew Hall
    Tuesday, October 19, 2004

    Chris, you are right of course. Developers don't always win, but they have a clever knack of grinding the opposition down. At first, as in the case of the millpond, there's fierce opposition, but as time goes by, people tend to become apathetic, punch-drunk, or resigned. That's where things can go awfully wrong.

    Happily, and I'm not trying to be patronising in any way shape or form, there does seem to be a certain resilience amongst people who live in this area, and the residents of Steepfields, in particular, seem to be determined. (Mind you, it's always an advantage to have a 'webmaster' on board - there's nowt like the oxygen of publicity!)

    As for your reference to Eaves, well we have our fair share of development further down the valley, at the old Bankfoot Garage, at Mytholm Hall and potentially on Brown's Field. There's also an outline planning application in for housing adjacent to Crowther Terrace on the track going up to the New Delight. Incidentally, you can object online to any planning application, just follow the link on the Council website.

    So we all have battles on our hands and need to suppport each other against these developers, whose sole interest is to make money.


    Reply from a Hebden Royd Town Councillor
    Tuesday, October 19, 2004

    Contact details for Green Tops Limited

    Green Tops Limited
    41 Knowlewood Road
    Todmorden
    OL14 6PB

    07780 960 845

    www.green-tops.co.uk
    info@green-tops.co.uk

    Registered office
    12 York Place
    Leeds
    LS1 2DS

    Director R Broome

    Company No 5028206

    These details were supplied in a letter sent to all the councillors of Hebden Royd Town Council. I thought they may be of interest and useful for your readers.


    Reply from "Anonymous" of Green Tops
    Wednesday, October 20, 2004

    We are following your discussion on the subject of the millpond and would like to respond to some of the points raised.

    Firstly this is not a cynical eco housing scheme and will not be replaced by executive homes later in the process. We are genuinely committed to building a proper eco housing scheme, restoring the millpond as a valuable wetland habitat, opening up the site to public access, planting new trees, repairing dangerous walls and managing the tree woodland. Which parts of this proposal are people opposed to ? We are sure that if this project ever gets to planning your readers will demand that Calderdale add conditions to this effect - we would be happy for them to do this.

    We hear suggestions that all we are interested in is profit but if this were the case a cheaply constructed development of 25 luxury apartments would be the way forward. Some profit is however needed to pay for the repair of the retaining walls, make the site safe, open the new footpath and to manage the healthy tree stock. As the residents who own the land adjacent to ours know trees and land does not look after itself for nothing. Woodland needs maintenance, walls need repairing and rubbish needs clearing.

    We know there have been many cynical developments in the area but there is little we can do to persuade ever increasingly cynical people that our vision is genuine. If we wanted to build executive houses or 25 bland luxury apartments surely it would be easiest to just put that forward. Is that what people really want - a bland building of apartments with the millpond tarmaced over for parking ?

    Would it not be better for the community to support this innovative plan rather than try to wreck it ? Where are the principles of the people who have been calling for eco homes and even proposing it on the land in front of Spring Grove just 50 yards away from the millpond ? Where are the principles of the people who want to encourage wildlife and bio diversity ?

    We have called for community consultation and have mooted a meeting chaired by a councillor but all approaches have been declined. On our last site visit, arranged following consultation with Calderdale Council and the Local Police, we were met with hostility from people threatening violence, attacking security, spitting at workers, throwing missiles and urinating into bags and throwing them at people. Five workers' cars were vandalised and people involved received telephone death threats. Is this really how a landowner doing legitimate and necessary work on its own land should be met by the community ?

    We would now like to be given free access to our land to clear the felled trees and get to the walls so we can inspect them to decide what works are necessary. Whilst the some people tried to prevent the necessary felling of trees we would now like the community to cooperate with this necessary work.

    There have been lots of people making challenges on your forum so here's our challenge to the community - why not get involved in a positive way with this innovative scheme and show people that the private sector and community together can produce something really excellent.

    Thank you


    Reply from David
    Wednesday, October 20, 2004

    I've just read all the last few weeks of comments about the Mill Pond. I turned up yesterday to support friends living in Windsor Street who seem to have been struggling to find out what the hell is really going on, as regards TPOs, development, of what, by whom???

    So, can I take it that "anonymous" of Green Tops is Mark Clyndes who was there during yesterday's... how can I put it... shambles? Please correct me if I'm wrong. Not surprised you've tried to stay anonymous, with your approach. And I can empathise... having been assaulted by the brick-shit-house sized security yesterday, and the doctor today telling me it'll be a few days before I can walk comfortably, and overhearing threats made to local residents by security on the day, I don't feel too much like giving my name out either. A situation you've created, Clyndsey.

    Now then, people spitting and throwing bags of piss... just get my breath from laughing. Yeah, I saw one person spit at security, but bags of piss, please, very Daily Mail circa '94... What I did see, though, were chainsaws (running) being pointed at people, myself included. Local cops looking away as this happened. Physical violence and threats from security. Chainsaw operatives with no apparent knowledge of health and safety, for themselves or others. And it's a surprise someone/people slashed the chainsaw people's tyres...?? Seems like a legitimate response to potentialy serious injuries. Don't come back.

    Next bit... anonymous/Clyndsey says in his email to hebweb after yesterday mornings events that he had consulted with police and Calderdale council about next steps. Jesus man, you're a compulsive liar. You were meant to come back on site WITH police and council officials, not storm in, fell trees, attack residents, then wait for police and council officials to come when news reached them. Your game is quite obvious, you're tactics crude. You were shaking a bit when you left yesterday, probably starting to realise what a mess your crude, amateur approach has created. Cos you're not Persimmon Homes, Bellaway or other national housebuilder. People don't have to go to AGMs to protest. You live around Calderdale, the responsibility for this is yours, and the dirt sticks to you.

    And don't tell me the development will be eco-housing!!! A couple of solar panels on each roof? Nonsense. Just look at the site - it'll involve major work just to get at it. And sustainable housing includes communitites. Your approach so far has alienated, attacked, shaken, angered a lot of the local community, Windsor Road and beyond.

    And as for the local dobbins police.... oh I can't be bothered. A bit like them really.


    Reply from Chris of Windsor Road
    Wednesday, October 20, 2004

    I have been involved in making representations about the Mill Pond for over a year. Local residents have behaved impeccably. We followed all the correct procedures, wrote letters to the various authorities and lobbied the Planning Committee meetings at Calderdale.

    What yesterday showed was what a terrrific, strong community we have round here. I am proud to be living alongside such great people.

    As for Green Tops saying we have refused to meet with them, that is an outright lie. Residents have been trying to find out for a year who they are so that they can make direct representations to Green Tops. Every single person who has come to the site on the new owners' business we have asked "Who are Green Tops?" The council officials, I am sure, will confirm that we have asked them dozens of times.

    And if you want to involve our community in a "positive way", do you really think the best way is to send in vicious, hired thugs in yellow jackets to attack us?


    Reply from J. Thomas, Windsor Road
    Wednesday, October 20, 2004

    Dear Hebweb

    Greentops latest letter appals after the actions they commissioned yesterday. They ask many questions, wondering why people oppose them. These are my immediate responses.

    Because the site remains structurally unsuitable for housing development being exactly what it says a former millpond. It is composed of a series of culverts and river silt. It is not solid ground. It is unstable at its axis and has already been propped and will not bear substantial weight exactly where Greentops proposes its road access.

    Because it has over time emerged naturally as a valuable wet woodland, at least that is what it was until its destruction and devastation over the past two weeks. We already had a valued wet woodland, now we don't.

    Because it had a vast array of birds including owls and woodpeckers, bats, newts and wet woodland wildlife. Last night it was deathly silent. This morning birds kept returning to the site looking for nests. The principles of the people who want to encourage wildlife and bio diversity remain in tact. Sadly the wildlife and bio diversity do not.

    Because Greentops had already removed a large proportion of protected trees on their last visit and had agreed to come and carry out essential work in the presence of two council tree protection officers and the wildlife policeman. Instead they arrived at 7:30 am. Before council offices were even open with a host of extremely large 'security' men and not a carefully selected crew of tree surgeons but a gang of mocking indiscriminate chainsaw operators.

    Because Greentops had proffered a meeting, which was taken up by residents. The residents demand being only that accountable representatives of Greentops and Kennedy design be present so that discussions were meaningful. Because Greentops instead sent as their representatives bullies and chainsaws. They stood outside our homes, on our street, and threatened and mocked us.

    But most of all, and above all else, because yesterday Greentops bought violent and brutal men to our community and to our homes and displayed them in front of our children. Because they used intimidation and shocking force to carry out their work. Because they injured people as they pulled them upside down from trees and cut trees down with people in them. Because they threatened people with chainsaws. Because the scenes of yesterday were truly awful.

    Whatever Greentops intentions, this community will not forget what they bought to us yesterday. No amount of deceptive language or 'eco' promises will repair the damage. In terms of producing something 'really excellent' 'together', we already have something really excellent together, that was on display yesterday and is only strengthened by brutality and intimidation.


    Reply from Susi Bryson of Birchfield Villas
    Wednesday, October 20, 2004

    Hi Green Tops (cute name! clearly you love green things!)

    This is what you said on your website:

    'Trees of these species, and in this condition do not normally merit a TPO. An independent ecologist Green Tops consulted expressed surprise at Calderdale s moves to protect these trees. The protection of these trees is contrary to all Government Guidance and good practice. Judicial Review could overturn the order'.

    'We consider that the TPO was politically led in response to the perceived local views. As such, it was an abuse of the legislation and ignored all proper procedure'.

    Just let me read that again Green Tops, you didn't think the order was a good idea because it was politically led, and an abuse of the legislation.

    What was your response to that situation? It would appear that it was to ignore the (bad) legislation and chop down the (bad) trees.

    That response looks to me like you ignored the proper procedure and committed an abuse of the legislation.

    If you want to collaborate with the local community and establish a sensible dialogue you are going to have to gain the trust of the local people. You will be judged by your action, not your pretty website.

    Cutting down trees at 7.40 am with large numbers of tree surgeons and security guards does not engender local people's trust, nor does riding roughshod over procedurally proper legislation however bad you believe that legislation to have been.

    You are going to have to start acting differently if you really want to engage locals in this project. Do you really want to?


    Reply from Annie Conboy of Windsor Road
    Thursday, October 21, 2004

    Dear Anon Green Tops,

    I find the actions of your company have just been made more insulting and objectionable by the latest post to this thread. I have communicated with you as requested and set out my very clear and considerable objections to your use of illegal access, illegal tree felling and the potential damage you propose to cause to my home. Yes - my home, the place where I live with a small child who has›now has one less›opportunity to experience nature or the place ›where I could show her the birds, the bats and the beauty of growing things.

    You have ignored my communications whilst at the same time trying to suggest a reasonable approach would be to sit down and talk about it. After all who could object to eco housing???? I can and will where the development of a site is likely to bring the whole terrace of houses down on my child. What is worse, a child hurt by falling masonry from a wall that could have been easily repaired and stengthened or a child killed by a landslide as her home slides into the bottom end of Spring Grove? Not easy to answer ethically, I know, but certainly not something you have been prepared to address by making your 'structural' report(s) available to residents so that fully informed judgements can be made.

    So how kind of you to send in the bullyboys to discuss it with me. After all at 7.40am it's 10am somewhere in the rest of the world. Never mind that the frantic barking of my dog scared my child; or that a peaceful start to the day was over. I rushed out still wearing my nightclothes under my top clothes to see a team of grinning, abusive and aggressive men taunting residents, pushing people about and clearly looking for a fight. Even as I rang the police I was very scared that a resident would be seriously injured. What an example for my child to watch from our window! But perhaps, after all, these poor defenceless men were ONLY DOING THIER JOB (or was that Adolf Hitler???). Half asleep women and children are actually so dangerous!!! ›And what about all the burly male residents who were likely to prevent the illegal felling of trees? It was certainly a good strategy of Mr Clyndes and his stormtroopers to punch, kick and drag anyone they could lay hands on in case these residents managed to defend themselves - or, Deity Forbid! - the trees. Never mind rights of access to the public footpaths on the land because after all Green Tops is not a company prepared to respect rights, the law or anyone trying to enforce the law (not refering to the police here as they seem to have fallen for yet another Green Tops scam).

    You even have the brass neck to suggest that the poor (!)›treefellers and security guards suffered at the hands of residents. I did not witness any of the things you are suggesting and do not condone them if they actually did happen. However, since my experience of your company is that you lie, and lie, and lie and lie once more, I am sure that your latest PR attempt to wring pity for your company is just that - another cynical story to try to gain some cheap sympathy. The men you recruited a week ago cetainly earned their £250 payoff and I am sure the tree felling cowboy comapny was also well paid. They can all walk away from the Mill Pond and go home to a good night's sleep. Green Tops has taken that option away from my family and whatever scam you are running will never alter my total oposition to any plan you propose.

    PS. I don't plan to move home either - just in case you were wondering!


    Reply from Steve Wilinsky of Windsor Road
    Thursday, October 21, 2004

    Might I ask what you thought you were doing?
    Again you lived up to our expectations.
    Nobody was really surprised by your actions.
    Guess the wall is your next target
    Of course you will get planning permission.


    Reply from Councillor Nader Fekri
    Thursday, October 21, 2004

    Can I just say how appalled I was to see the photos on your website as well as in the Courier. I truly hope that no-one was hurt on Tuesday's fiasco. If there is anything that I can do in a personal, or as your elected representative, please do not hesitate to contact me.


    Reply from Knittedtops aka Lyn Breeze
    Thursday, October 21, 2004

    Darling Squidgytops,

    I admit I am tempted by your recent proposal... it has such a purity about it that I really and truly want to believe in you again.

    But Darling, although you promise me you would never even look at one of those cheap 25-luxury-apartments, or flirt with any executive-houses, I just can't forget how you've let me down in the past.

    I know what they say about you...that you are a liar and a cheat and a fraud and that you can't be trusted further than you can throw a felled tree, but your letters are so persuasive, I feel myself falling under your spell.

    Darling Squidgy, tell me you mean it when you say that one day we'll have our own little healthy trees and forgive me for doubting you. I'm sorry but sometimes I wonder whether you're just saying it. Once I've let you have your wicked way, perhaps all those promises of eco-friendship and community-spirit will come crashing down like protected trees under the chainsaw.

    You always look so gentle, Darling, but how do I know that you won't get rough one day like those horrid friends of yours? I know it wasn't your fault but they practically pulled my arms off with their silly pranks on Tuesday! Golly, it still hurts very badly.

    Here's a little challenge for you, Sweetheart. Let's forget your proposal for now and concentrate making you better if we can. Who knows, in time people might learn to trust you.

    Your very own,
    Knittedtops x x x


    Reply from Cllr Stewart Brown,›"non-anonymous" Hebden Royd town councillor
    Thursday, October 21, 2004

    Having just spoken to Peter Melhuish (lead officer in Planning for this) it seems it will be 'weeks rather than days' before Calderdale MBC decide what action - if any -›to take against those responsible for the carnage witnessed on Tuesday and before. I think it should be 'hours rather than days'.

    Mr Melhuish was oblivious to the›Green Tops›website so I have encouraged him to read their rantings on the Hebden Dale Mill Pond project (and click on The Trees) ›for›accuracy. This also includes a totally unbiased version of Tuesday's events:

    "On 19th October, following full consultation with the local police and Calderdale Council we returned to site with tree surgeons, a security firm and police presence. We were met with hostility from people threatening violence, attacking security, spitting at workers, throwing missiles and urinating into bags and throwing them at people. Five workers' cars were vandalised and people involved received telephone death threats.

    The only thing the protestors have achieved is wasting many thousands of pounds on security which could have been put to many better and more worthwhile uses."


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