10 Questions for the
Calderdale Chief Executive

Saturday, 19 April 2008

Following publication in the Times newspaper of the article (A bridge too far? Not all regeneration projects are welcome) drawing national attention to the extent of concern about this scheme in Hebden Bridge, the Garden Street Action Group have written directly to the Chief Executive of Calderdale Council, Owen Williams, with a list of 10 questions. 

These questions will be followed next week (23rd April) by a presentation to the full Council of the 1100 signature petition from residents and visitors objecting to the scheme.

Anthony Rae, spokesperson for the Action Group, told the Hebden Bridge Web, "It really is time that the Council faced up to the many inconsistencies and contradictions within this scheme, and answered some fairly basic questions such as will there really be any significant parking provision at all, which in any case could be provided much easier and quicker elsewhere in the town? 

"We have tried repeatedly to get answers to many concerns about the appropriateness of this huge development from other officers of the Council.  Now it is time for the Chief Executive to explain to the Hebden Bridge community why the Council, which originally promoted the scheme and on its own site, can justify proceeding with it.  It can’t dodge its responsibilities any longer."

The 10 Questions are:

Question 1: How many genuinely additional car parking spaces – more than the existing provision – will be provided by this development?

Maybe this could as little as 15 additional new spaces.

Question 2: If the Council wants to provide more car parking provision in Hebden Bridge, why don't you choose the quickest, cheapest, easiest, and better located way to do this instead?

There are a number of alternative ways in which parking provision in the town could be increased by between 50-70 new public spaces.

Question 3: Why is the Council trying to encourage more cars to come to Hebden Bridge?

Potentially 200-300 new parking spaces at various locations (including Garden Street) could attract more cars to the town, at the same time as the Council is consulting about its requirement to cut air pollution, which will require a reduction in road traffic.

Question 4: Is the scale of this development appropriate in a small town like Hebden Bridge?

The proposed scheme will be in six blocks, totalling 7400 square metres, up to 7 storeys high, and highly visible within the town and from the surrounding hillsides.

Question 5: Why has the Council allowed the scheme to be transformed from car parking-led to the largest comprehensive redevelopment scheme the town has ever seen? 

 … because the Council did not place adequate restraints in the development brief which it prepared on the amount and type of development that could be implemented.

Question 6: Has the Council made an assessment of the economic disruption and damage that this development, which it is promoting, could cause to Hebden Bridge and its businesses? 

There will inevitably be disruption as roads are closed and as the development period continues over a number of years. This will cause substantial damage to businesses and employment in the town. 
Question 7: Has the Council considered the risks to the town associated with this development? 

What happens to Hebden Bridge if the scheme damages the town or, at its worst, the development is actually left uncompleted?

Question 8: Will you address the many failures in the Council's process related to this development? 

The Action Group has identified many failures in the Council process to develop the scheme.

 Question 9: Will you reveal the non-commercially confidential parts of the secret development agreement which the Council has signed with the applicant?

The Council has a conflict of interest – it is not just responsible for determining the planning application but also owns the development site, is promoter of the development opportunity, and party to the development agreement – and has not acted with the necessary transparency to maintain public confidence.

Question 10: Does the community in Hebden Bridge want this development, and does the town need it? 

The scheme is highly unpopular and Hebden Bridge actually needs protecting against this scale of development.

A final question: why on earth is the Council promoting this development opportunity at all?

See also

Hebweb News - Garden Street public meeting, January 2008

Hebweb Forum thread - from January 2008

Hebweb Forum thread - 2007 (50-60 messages, many extremely well informed and articulated)

Hebweb News (June 2007) - Parking options: Garden Street or the Station

Planning Watch - with links to documents and page to comment online.