Campaigners accuse council of ‘bullying tactics’ over crossroads scheme

Local residents and traders at Hipperholme traffic lights.
Local residents and traders at Hipperholme traffic lights.

Campaigners have accused Calderdale Council of employing “bullying tactics” following Cabinet’s decision to allow the use of compulsory purchase powers to enable the redevelopment of Hipperholme crossroads.

The £3 million project could see the compulsory purchase of land at Christ Church Methodist Church, land outside of The Whitehall Pub and land to the rear of Tesco Express on Wakefield Road.

The Hipperholme Preservation Society has accused the council of ignoring the views of the local community, claiming that 2,024 out of 2,029 residents surveyed were opposed to the proposals.

Speaking after Monday’s Cabinet meeting John Wharton, secretary of the Hipperholme Preservation Society, said: “We have a concern that Calderdale Council’s Cabinet has agreed to use compulsory purchase powers to obtain the land needed for the crossroads scheme.

“To use such powers on Christ Church at Hipperholme amounts to bullying in our estimation, as the church does not have the resources to contest such powers.”

He added: “We will continue our fight against this ridiculous scheme.”

Coun Barry Collins, Cabinet member for economy and environment, defended the council’s plans.

He said the council is obliged to redevelop the junction to reduce congestion, improve pedestrian safety and improve air quality in the area.

He rejected claims that the Hipperholme community would be ignored and said there will be a thorough public consultation which will last until September.

He said: “People with a political interest jump straight in to say there’s going to be no consultation - there will be two months of consultation.

“The resolution that went through Cabinet was not a decision to begin compulsory purchase - it was an enabling resolution that gave us the powers to use compulsory purchase if we judge it necessary.

“Most importantly, it was a statement of intent by the council - we feel an obligation to try and find a solution to this problem.”

He added: “No-one has picked up a sledgehammer to crack a nut.”

The scheme has come under fire from Craig Whittaker, Conservative MP for the Calder Valley, who has criticised the council’s handling of the project.

He said: “I have stated on many occasions that the council should have produced a number of different designs and held a public consultation on that basis.

“Their original plans were dismissed by local residents last year and, rather than returning with a number of different proposals, the council has merely brought back what is largely the same design and that is simply not acceptable.

“For any proposal to be successful, it needs to receive the support of local residents, which this scheme does not.

“I urge the council to listen to the views of local people on this issue and to ensure that any plans for the redevelopment of the crossroads are supported by the residents of Hipperholme.”

Coun Collins said: “It’s very easy to say ‘this scheme is wrong’ or ‘that scheme is wrong’, but the fact is we have a congestion issue, an air quality issue and a pedestrian safety issue, and the council has to find ways to address these problems.

“If people feel our scheme isn’t the right one, then we really would welcome counter-proposals of a serious nature - but we’ve had virtually nothing.”

Coun Colin Raistrick (Independent, Hipperholme and Lightcliffe) said: “There are schemes that would cost a quarter of this that won’t rip the heart out of our community.”