Castle Hill climb down COUNCILLORS READY TO CHANGE DIRECTION OVER THEIR OPPOSITION TO A HOTEL
COUNCILLORS’ opposition to a hotel at Castle Hill appears to have vanished.
The tide seems to have turned after a discussion about the new proposal ended with members of Huddersfield planning sub committee indicating they would support the idea.
The developers have many hurdles to overcome and must prove “special circumstances” exist if they are to get the green light.
Jubilee Tower at the top of Castle Hill is a Grade 2 listed structure, the top of the hill is a designated nature reserve and the whole site is in the green belt.
The hill was once topped by an Iron Age fort and is an official ‘scheduled monument.’
Developers the Thandi brothers have spent more than a decade trying to get permission to build after they knocked down the former pub on the hill without permission.
They were forced to demolish the larger hotel they were building in its place in 2005 as it breached planning law.
The brothers failed twice, in 2010 and 2012, to get new permission.
But agents acting for them now have been given new hope that something could be built.
Speaking at the committee they told councillors they would bring new facilities, including a visitor centre, on roughly the same footprint as the former buildings.
They said they would be low buildings that would be “virtually invisible” from the surroundings as they would be hidden by the embankment.
A visitor centre for Kirklees Council would be privately built in exchange for the commercial operation, which would include a cafe, toilets and some bedrooms.
The agents said they needed to know if councillors would support them before they put the money into another planning application.
A spokesman said: “It’s the primary heritage visitor attraction in Kirklees and at the moment it isn’t supported in the way it should be.”
Clr Sheikh Ullah said: “Castle Hill is an iconic landmark and I think it deserves something a little bit better than what’s on there now.
“I think there needs to be a viable commercial element ... sadly I think the days of kite flying and dog walking are long gone.
“All the controversies that have surrounded Castle Hill, I think we need to draw a line under that.
“If we don’t, I’m in fear it will remain the way it is for many years to come.
“I’m a massive user of Castle Hill, I’m a typical Yorkshire dad. I use free facilities.
“There does come a time when you’re visiting Castle Hill that you would want to sit down and have a cup of tea, a coffee, and maybe a sandwich.
“There’s nowhere at all to get refreshments and no opportunity to learn more about the site and the archaeology of the site.
“I think I would something like that.
“The views are amazing but there needs to be more.”
Clr Rob Walker said he didn’t think many people appreciated the historical significance of the site.
He said: “I would support something that did provide a very high quality visitor facility for the interpretation and explanation of the site, which does date back to pre-history, before the Roman occupation of Britain.”
Clr Ken Sims, said: “I would love to see a proper and modern facility that blends in properly. “It’s been done all over the world. “It’s a shame what happened last time. But let’s think out of the box. We need to promote Huddersfield.
“If we don’t jump up and down selling Huddersfield we’re going to die.”
Clr Mohammed Sarwar said he was aware of people from China coming to visit it and tourism could be bolstered by a facility.
He said problems of drug dealing at the site would disappear if it was developed.
Councillors Mohan Sokhal, Donna Bellamy, James Homewood and Terry Lyons, also all spoke in favour of the idea.
But Clr Bernard McGuin, who is a member for the Almondbury ward in which the hill lies, said there was opposition from local residents.
“They don’t want anything to go on the hill,” he said.
“They can’t see any special circumstances and they don’t want to see that monument desecrated.
“The footprint that was there has gone, it’s just a car park.
“The road up to Castle Hill is narrow, there’s been several accidents up there, there have been cars overturned.
“I’d like to see cars banned from going up there.
“If you’re going to do a visitor centre, look to the base of Castle Hill, use one of the fields.
“I’m not saying there shouldn’t be a place to get a cup of tea and find out about the history, but I don’t think it should be at the top of the hill.”