Cas­tle Hill climb down COUN­CIL­LORS READY TO CHANGE DI­REC­TION OVER THEIR OP­PO­SI­TION TO A HO­TEL

Huddersfield Daily Examiner - - FRONT PAGE -

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.”

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