By Daniel Wood
A new building is set to be placed at the top of Castle Hill in Huddersfield after being approved by Kirklees Council.
Plans for a cafe near the base of Victoria Tower atop Castle Hill, have been the subject of much controversy for some time now, having been described as both a ‘public benefit’ and a ’21st-century eyesore’.
Despite the approval of the council, the final decisionis not set in stone, and campaigners have already made a request to the government to formally “call-in” the plan for review.
The final decision will therefore now be with Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick.
The scheme was debated at a meeting of Kirklees Council’s Strategic Planning Committee yesterday (Oct 28).
By the end of the discussion four Labour members voted in favour of the Café project – Carole Pattison, Cathy Scott, Mohan Sokhal and Steve Hall.
Votes against included Conservatives Donna Bellamy and Nigel Patrick, as well as Lib Dem Andrew Pinnock.
The in-favour votes were for a low-lying café/restaurant with bedrooms and interpretation facilities for visitors, plus a new car park.
Cllr Cathy Scott said she spoke for the “silent voice” of people who might be in favour of the plan but who were not represented at the meeting.
She identified the employment opportunities and investment that the site offered and said the applicant had worked with the council.
She added: “Yes, mistakes have been made but people keep harping back to the past. You can’t do that. It’s the application that’s in front of you today that you are deciding on. You can’t continually hold it against an applicant.
“We need to embrace the investment and, the people of Huddersfield, this is an investment for you.”
Kicking off the debate was a lengthy list of speakers who were mainly opposed to the plan.
Martin Kilburn of Huddersfield Civic Society described the development as “wholly inappropriate” and said the site should be preserved, not turned into a commercial hospitality venue.
Speaking after the decision Cllr Bernard McGuin, who has been a vocal critic of plans since the beginning, expressed his disappointment.
“Shame on those who voted for this. Historic England could put a block on this particular plan. If they don’t block it I hope the Secretary of State listens to our arguments and stops it.”
Local Architect Kevin Drayton has previously described Castle Hill, which includes the 1890s Victoria Tower, as “the premier heritage asset of Kirklees and certainly the most prominent”.
He said the public benefits of the scheme “are enormous in themselves but they may also be the catalyst that sparks a beneficial wave of general regeneration.”