Regeneration is important: in 2014 over a third of Cleckheaton town centre lay derelict (see picture above) and Heckmondwike waited 9 years for a town centre eyesore to become its first bus "station". Spen Valley Civic Society (SVCS) sees regeneration as an opportunity for individuals and organizations like ours to work with the Council to find solutions which meet the needs of the local community. We were thrilled that a station at Low Moor opened in 2017: this should be a boost to regeneration in Cleckheaton.
In terms of industry and business, SVCS thinks Kirklees should focus its regeneration efforts on creating well-paid, skilled jobs and facilities for the small or medium-sized (often specialist) companies involved. Such development should be on land which does not visually dominate the landscape.
SVCS accepts that more housing is needed. One of the core aims of our constitution is to encourage high standards in our built environment. We fully support the principle of sustainable development in or close to existing settlement centres. We think intelligent housing development can significantly regenerate small towns like Heckmondwike and Cleckheaton. Bringing housing into the middle of towns literally breathes life back into them and benefits local businesses, shops and services.
However,space is tight, so most of the housing will have to be of a higher density in terms of land used. Homes in town centres could be attractive, secure and accessible to shops, health and transport facilities. The Council needs to encourage imaginative designs of town centre apartments which externally complement or respect the historical and vernacular architecture of West Yorkshire, but internally are energy efficient and disability-friendly, given our ageing population comprising mostly smaller “family units”. We are not proposing high-rise buildings: three or four storeys would be sufficient, depending on surrounding buildings.
SVCS thinks housing should be built to a high standard with a long “shelf life”: poor quality cheap development is counter-productive and damaging to Spen Valley's reputation as a good place to live and work. SVCS thinks housing developers’ preference for building estates of 4-5 bedroom “executive” houses is neither sustainable in terms of land usage, nor does it address our most pressing housing shortages in Kirklees. Our two population groups with the highest need for housing are (i) older people and (ii) singletons/couples entering the housing market. More availability of well-designed flats or apartments close to amenities would free up family-sized houses which are under-occupied.
Spen Valley has many pockets of dereliction or poor-quality old redundant buildings. They're a disgrace! Local people should be invited to help identify these and the Council should support efforts to regenerate and redevelop these sites.
SVCS thinks that the Council should stop being so “Huddersfield-centric”. Most residents of the Spen Valley don't consider themselves to be on the outer reaches of Huddersfield. Quite the opposite, we feel we're much more strategically placed – ie, at the centre of the West Yorkshire conurbation, with easy access to Leeds, Bradford, Wakefield and Halifax (as well as Huddersfield). Development in Leeds and Bradford affects us as much as that in Huddersfield, and the majority of Spen Valley residents travel towards Leeds for work, as evidenced in the Council's own statistics. When regenerating and developing, we want Kirklees Council to take into consideration what is planned by neighbouring Councils.