Hebden Royd Town Council in race to the bottom

Hebden Royd Town Council has voted (9-4 with one abstention) to support the Setbray/Belmont Homes planning application for a supermarket and hotel at the Mytholm Works site on King Street, Hebden Bridge – with the proviso that additional traffic safety measures should be a condition of approval.

In recommending that Calderdale Council’s planning committee approves this planning application, Hebden Royd Town Council has shown its low expectations for new employment in the town. If the development goes ahead, the supermarket and hotel would create mostly unskilled, minimum wage jobs – around 31 full time and 41 part time.

Why doesn’t Hebden Royd Town Council make Hebden Bridge a Living Wage Town -rather than approving developments which will only add to the 6.1 million people in UK working families who are already living in poverty?

Inaugural Incredible Edible Meeting, November 15th

After the Councillors had voted, the ten or so members of the public who had attended in order to voice their objections left the Council Chamber and agreed to meet at 7.30 pm on November 15th in the upstairs room at Stubbing Wharf, in order to set up Incredible Edible Mytholm (IEM) as an unincorporated association, with the aim of nominating the Mytholm Works site as a community asset, and to elect the IEM steering group and officers.

Anyone who shares this aim and wishes to join Incredible Edible Mytholm is welcome to attend the meeting.

Back in the Council Chamber…

Speaking at the start of the Council’s discussion, the objectors’ spokesperson (me) made the case that the proposed supermarket and hotel development runs counter to both Calderdale planning policies and the National Planning Policy Framework, in several respects.  For a start, the supermarket and hotel would fail to use the “new employment” site in the best interests of Hebden Bridge youth and the town’s economy. The town needs skilled jobs that pay decent, living wages.

The sole member of the public who came to support the development asserted that he spoke for many people in Hebden Bridge who were afraid to come to the Council meeting. Contesting the objectors’ point that an edge of town supermarket would damage existing town centre businesses and their local suppliers, he said there were “about four” food shops in Hebden Bridge, which wouldn’t suffer from an additional supermarket, while pricy, quirky shops certainly wouldn’t be affected.

Kick off

Taking an economical swipe at two targets, Cllr Susan Press said that the objectors were wrong to calculate the number of new jobs in the proposed supermarket on the basis of figures from the inadequately-staffed Hebden Bridge Coop. “Everyone knows how long their checkout queues are,” said Cllr Press. Despite her put-down, she announced she hadn’t made up her mind about the proposed development and would take her lead from other councillors.

Cllr Beacroft Mitchell said he supported the planning application and wished to move that the Council support it.

Cllr Fearon countered that the proposed supermarket was “inappropriate” for Hebden Bridge and advocated a more creative alternative development, such as a Lawn Tennis Association-funded regional tennis centre.

The Chair, Cllr Davenport, pointed out that the meeting could only consider the current planning application.

The Rose-tinted Specs Award

Cllr Baker mocked Cllr Fearon’s “fantasies” – but quickly went on to win the Energy Royd Rose-tinted Specs Award, with his twice-stated vision of 70 unemployed Hebden Bridge folk lifted off benefits into jobs, mortgages and home ownership in the town, thus saving Hebden Bridge from becoming a commuter town.

Carried away by his unlikely scenario – which ignores the small fact that it’s no longer possible for people on minimum wage to acquire a mortgage, since reckless mortgage sales led to the Lehman Brothers’ collapse and subsequent global financial meltdown – Cllr Baker seconded Cllr Beacroft-Mitchell’s motion to support the planning application.

Objecting to  Cllr Baker’s “jibe”, Councillor Fearon said that he’d suggested an alternative development in order to show that there were better, more creative possibilities for developing the site, rather than accepting an inappropriate proposal for a supermarket.

Cllr Press popped up with the reminder that Councillors were only allowed to speak once on the motion, and Cllr Fearon had now spoken twice.

“Preferable for Incredible Edible Mytholm to have the site”

Cllr Young said that there were two sides to the story and that he’d prefer Incredible Edible Mytholm to have the site, but they don’t own it. “We can only judge the application that’s in front of us,” he pointed out. Noting that there were problems with the traffic plans for the development that would need sorting, he concluded that for him, “The jury’s out but at the moment I’m 60:40 in favour.”

Cllr Fekri stated that it was very difficult to make a decision, but he was going to oppose the motion so that Calderdale Council gets to hear the voice of the objectors.

Cllr Fearon also said he rejected the proposed supermarket since it would be an inappropriate use of the site.