Plan to plant jubilee orchard in Upper Hopton

A COMMUNITY group has started making plans for a new orchard to celebrate the Queen’s diamond jubilee.

Members of Hopton In Bloom and Upper Hopton Community Association want to plant the orchard over an acre of land off Jackroyd Lane.

It will feature a walkway down to a stream and a pond, and a wetland meadow with benches for local people to use.

Originally it was proposed to use the land for allotments, but community association members set out their new plan to members of Mirfield Town Council at a meeting on Tuesday night.

Roger Leedham from Hopton In Bloom told councillors: “We as a community association want something different and the people living around that area also feel it would be better with an alternative proposal.”

A survey had shown that there had not been overwhelming support for the allotments scheme, with only around half of local residents supporting the proposal, Mr Leedham said.

He added that a community orchard would help to enhance the peaceful, rural character of the area which residents enjoy.

The idea was originally suggested in July last year by Hopton In Bloom member Chris Breare.

“I had seen a community orchard down in Bradfield, near Sheffield, and it worked really well, so we came up with the plan,” she said after the meeting.

The Upper Hopton orchard, if approved, will include around 50 fruit trees and may also feature hedges with hazelnuts on them.

Mrs Breare said local schoolchildren could be involved with planting the trees and picking the fruit, and Mr Leedham told councillors that the produce could be picked by local people, with any surpluses donated to charity.

The orchard will be planted on the corner of Jackroyd Lane and Hopton Hall Lane, on playing fields that were once used by the nearby former school.

It will be put at the back of the field, as the land next to Jackroyd Lane has been set aside for housing developments.

The project will be funded by Hopton In Bloom and planting could start this autumn.

Mrs Breare said the group could organise specific events to help raise money for the orchard.

She added that members would consult local residents to find out their thoughts on the proposal.

“We will have to survey the village and submit a questionnaire,” she said.

“Hopefully we can get some low trees so they are not blocking anyone’s views.”

Hopton In Bloom members took the plan to Mirfield Town Council, following correspondence with Kirklees Council, to find out what steps they needed to take next to have the plan approved.

Mr Leedham said a Kirklees officer had said the town council could approve the plan, but councillors agreed to postpone making a decision until the process had been clarified by Kirklees, as Kirklees owns the land.

Chairman Coun David Pinder said: “We think it’s a good scheme. We are happy to support it and we will wait to hear what comes back from Kirklees.”

Kirklees Council declined to comment.