Eric Pickles rejects plan for eco retirement complex at Ponderosa Park, Heckmondwike (From Bradford Telegraph and Argus)
Get involved: send your pictures, video, news and views by texting TANEWS to 80360, or email
Findings of public inquiry overruled but owner says park will stay open
The Government has stepped in to deny a businessman permission to build a retirement complex on the green belt.
Builder Howard Cook had wanted to build an eco-friendly retirement complex at Ponderosa Park, his rare breeds farm and rural therapeutic centre in Heckmond-wike.
The complex, of a 50-bed care home and 145 care houses, would have been a carbon-neutral ‘eco’ development for the over-60s, set within the park.
Mr Cook had argued that the development would provide much-needed funding for Ponderosa, where disabled people are taught horticultural skills.
He originally applied for outline planning permission in July 2011, but Kirklees Council planners turned it down on the basis that it would be inappropriate for green belt land. A similar plan had also been rejected earlier that year.
Mr Cook lodged an appeal and in July and August last year, planning inspector Brendan Lyons held a public inquiry.
Mr Lyons found in Mr Cook’s favour, but his findings needed rubber-stamping by the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, Eric Pickles.
Mr Pickles has now gone against the planning inspector and refused permission for the retirement complex.
A letter written on behalf of Mr Pickles said while he had considered the benefit the scheme would have on funding the rural therapeutic centre, it did not outweigh the harm to the green belt.
Mr Pickles also raised doubts as to whether the development as a whole was sustainable.
The letter said: “The Secretary of State gives [the benefit to the therapeutic centre] only modest weight in the light of the uncertainties as to whether the whole project will be capable of operating on a sustainable basis.”
Mr Cook said he was disappointed, but gave his reassurances that the park would stay open.
He said: “We are extremely disappointed with the decision of the Secretary of State given that the appointed inspector, who heard all the evidence at the public inquiry, supported the proposal and provided sound reasoning to justify this development in the green belt.”
Mr Cook said their very special circumstances had been compelling and unique, and the scheme would have brought significant benefits to the area.
He said: “We now have to take stock of the decision and its implications for Ponderosa and the Council’s initiatives on neighbouring land.
“Ponderosa will remain open.”