100 jobs? Fact or fiction?

The upstairs room at Stubbing Wharf pub was full when Friends of Mytholm gathered at Sunday lunchtime to discuss the Belmont Homes and Setbray Properties proposal to build a car park, hotel and small supermarket on the Mytholm Works site, opposite the pub.

Friends of Mytholm meeting

Local residents – including elderly people from Mytholm sheltered housing, nearby householders, and parents whose children attend the Hebden Royd CofE primary school -voiced a variety of concerns and opinions.

Traffic problems

Extra traffic and proposed alterations to the road are major concerns for many people. A resident of Mytholm sheltered housing spoke out about her worries that elderly people, who already find it difficult to cross the main road, will be unable to negotiate the extra traffic. “We’re all wondering what’s going to happen to us – particularly crossing the road,” she said.

Chris Standish, a development, planning and regeneration specialist who chaired the discussion, explained that he would be happy to advise people on how they can take part in the planning process – whether they  completely oppose the proposed development, or want to suggest amendments  and improvements to the proposal.

He agreed that there are flaws in the traffic impact assessment and advised the meeting, “You have a small window of opportunity to get yourselves organised to make your representations to Calderdale Council – the deadline’s 2nd November.”

Update 26/10/2012 -In fact the last formal deadline for commenting to Calderdale Council on the planning application is 8th November, according to Calderdale Planning Officer Richard Seaman. He also told me that the Planning Department will accept comments after that date, right up until the date when the Council decides on the planning application. The only thing, he said, is that after 8th November people may not be able to comment via the Calderdale Council website but will have to post or email comments.

Hebden Bridge needs jobs

While some people at the meeting totally opposed the development proposal, on the grounds that it would devalue nearby houses, damage local food shops, hotels and bed and breakfasts, and threaten Hebden Bridge’s “funky” “quirky” image, others recognised that Hebden Bridge needs jobs and there should be a proper debate in the town about whether this proposal will deliver them.

The problem here, according to someone who wishes to remain anonymous, is that the site developers Belmont Homes and Setbray, and their agent Moreton Deakin Associates, simply haven’t provided enough information for people to make up their minds about whether this is a good proposal or not.

The agent says that by the time the Council considers the planning application, they will know which company is going to come in and run the supermarket,” he said. “But this seems unlikely. Do Setbray and Belmont really mean to go ahead with this development? Or do they just want to get planning permission, so they can sell the land at a higher price?”

People were also dubious about whether the development really would create one hundred jobs, a possibility claimed in a Hebden Bridge Times article. What kind of jobs would they be – full time, part time? Long term hotel and supermarket jobs, or short term construction jobs?

For purposes of comparison, the Hebden Bridge Coop, which is a bit smaller than the proposed Mytholm Works supermarket, currently employs 38 staff in a mix of full time and part time jobs. This information comes from a HB Coop supervisor.

I’ve asked Roger Lee, the planning consultant for the development, where these job figures come from and I’ll update this post when I hear back from him.

And how many jobs would be lost in Hebden Bridge as a result of the supermarket? This point was raised during the public consultation. Supermarkets and other edge of town retail developments are notorious for shutting down high street businesses and putting their employees out of work.

Other development ideas

Jeronimo Suarez, who works at Green Future Building, a not-for-profit social enterprise in Heckmondwike, suggested an alternative retail project for the site. His idea is to construct an indoor community market where local retailers and producers could sell their produce, together with an on-site aquaponics food-growing project. Green Future Building is already working with Todmorden High School to construct and help run their hdroponics project.

The kinds of jobs the development creates is really important,” Jeronimo pointed out. “Low skilled, low paid jobs with no training aren’t what we need. A scheme like a community market and aquaponics food growing project would bring decent, sustainable jobs to the area.”

However, Friends of Mytholm organiser Susan Quick advised that ,

“…we need to focus on issues which the planners will take into account …, never mind our wish list…”

For more information about how to take part in the Mytholm Works development proposal planning process, contact  Susan on 01422-844718, tweet @MytholmFriends, or see the Friends of Mytholm Facebook page.

Updated 26/10/2012 with figure for HB Coop employees.

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