Inquiry will decide future of green fields

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THE future of green fields at the centre of a controversial planning row are to be decided by a government inspector.

Brendon Lyons has been appointed by the Secretary of State to decide if developer Howard Cook can build a retirement community on land next to his Ponderosa rare breeds farm.

The complex would include 145 one and two bed units and a 50-bed nursing home with a store, post office, restaurant, cafe, village hall, bus stop and bowling green. and is designed to be eco-friendly.

The farm is off Smithies Lane in Heckmondwike, near Dewsbury Moor. Some of the land is in green belt.

Mr Cook’s planning application was turned down by Kirklees Council’s planning and highways committee in January after members ruled it was not an appropriate development for green belt land.

Mr Cook lodged an appeal, and in a statement he said he had spent £1,350,000 on the planning process.

He said: “I have constantly been assured that the planning application will be approved, and that the future of Ponderosa would be secured.

“If the planning application fails the banks have clearly stated that they will have no other option than to call in their debt.

“This will result in the closure of Ponderosa Park, including the therapeutic centre, the visitor centre and Ponderosa business park. As my house is also part of the land charged by the banks, I will also lose my family’s home.”

The plans have met with opposition from people nearby. Members of Save Norristhorpe Green Belt campaign group, which is fighting the scheme, say green belt land should not be developed, wildlife would suffer and the care home would be visible from as far away as Mirfield.

The appeal is at Dewsbury Minster and will start at 10am on Tuesday.