Hebden Bridge

Campaigning can begin at the very local level; here in my home town of Hebden Bridge which has a certain reputation for environmental awareness.

I cut my teeth as a campaigner protecting the half mile long Mayroyd site immediately to the east of Hebden Bridge station from comprehensive development, a project that was being sprung from the ownership of Walkely’s Clogs at its far end. There’s a nice account of the traditional clog factory in 1990 before its attempted morphing into a development vehicle, and the business continues (under different ownership) in nearby Myholmroyd.  Between 1992-97 repeated planning applications were resisted and I won a public inquiry against the developer and the Council.  The site is now designated Green Belt.

In 1996 I originated the proposal for the pedestrianisation of the town centre which was eventually implemented a decade later; in between I acted to advance and protect the project against the (occasional) ferocious opposition which such schemes can generate. The scheme has been a huge success, winning prizes (for which the Council designers can take credit) and is now accepted as the foundation for the town’s recent relative prosperity.

Between 2006-9 I had to waste very considerable quantities of my time resisting the development of a monstrously oversized and quite unnecessary multistorey car park and associated mixed development in the heart of the town, at Garden Street. It would have ruined Hebden in the same way that Arndale centres did for many a town in the 1960-70s.  Promoted by the Council on their own site, in partnership with a local developer – even supported by CABE, with none of the heritage experts bothering to check the flimsy artificial stone cladding which would adorned the exterior –  this was fought by a small ‘action group’ who were eventually able to alert an overwhelming majority in the town to the existential threat this represented. You can follow the whole saga on the ‘No the Garden Street!’ website which I created and ran.

After a ‘damn close run thing’ when the Planning Committee rejected the application 6 votes to 4 (so one vote different and the scheme was approved) the developer’s appeal was subsequently lost at Inquiry – with the Council leading but now on the Action Group’s side. I wrote our evidence – the Inspector concluding that the scheme would be ‘unacceptably harmful to the character and ambience of the locale’. Some final pressure got the Council to withdraw from the development agreement, preventing resubmission of a different scheme, and that was that.