By Andy Hirst

The developer behind one of the most controversial sites in Huddersfield says it shouldn’t have to pay hundreds of thousands of pounds towards affordable housing, education and local transport.

Prospect Estates Ltd won a lengthy legal battle in 2015 to build 41 homes on the Clayton Fields site off Halifax Road in Edgerton.

A long-running battle to save the green space from development was lost at the Supreme Court in February 2014 after residents’ claims that it was a Village Green were declared invalid by a judge.

But for it to go ahead Prospect Estates Ltd had to pay £362,000 under a Section 106 agreement to Kirklees Council to cover the cost of affordable homes on the site, a contribution towards education as the homes would put pressure on local schools for places and also to help the local transport network, including promoting the use of buses.

But now Prospect Estates Ltd has put in an application to Kirklees to waive these costs, saying it has run up a huge bill maintaining the site and in other costs and fees amounting to £420,000. They claim that if they have to pay the Section 106 costs the house-building would not be worth doing.

Nothing has yet been built on Clayton Fields which used to be a highly popular area for sledging in winter.

Clayton Fields in Halifax Road, Edgerton. Images by: Geoff Hughes

There are a number of objections on the planning portal with the main objectors including Huddersfield Civic Society and the town’s Labour MP Barry Sheerman.

Urging the council to reject the application, the society states: “The developer has made no visible progress on the plans for which they received consent following the Supreme Court judgement. Since 2015 the land has returned slowly to nature with no obvious management or security costs.

“The only cost we believe the developer may have incurred, other than footpath route changes a couple of years ago, is fencing off some minor site entry works some years ago.

“Looking at the claimed costs of £420,000 these look to be largely, if not entirely, management fees, costs and loan interest. All costs and charges appear to be between parties which may be linked to the development.

“A £25,000 loan is said to have become a £173,000 cost (this flat-rate interest we calculate as in excess of 90% pa), the difference of £148,000 being part of the reason to ask to be let off the S106 payments.”

Huddersfield Civic Society spokesman Geoff Hughes added: “We see no evidence for site management having taken place, dispute the calculation of the claimed costs and object to the principle that a developer can renege on its commitments because of its own actions, or inactions, after gaining planning permission.

“That agreement was reached in 2015 after a lengthy court battle against local people wishing to maintain this beautiful open space only a mile from Huddersfield town centre.

“The funding, known as a Section 106 payment, was to compensate Kirklees Council for the cost of providing local school, transport and affordable housing.”

Barry Sheerman

In a letter, Mr Sheerman spelled out his strong objections and said: “It is deplorable that conditions placed to ensure the development is sustainable for the community should be avoided by the developer.

“Many of my constituents will wonder how it is that what seem to be a very predictable set of costs can be considered grounds to escape obligations.

“They will be concerned that at a time where the council’s budgets are being squeezed ever more acutely there may be a shift in financial burden from the developer who stands to make a significant profit from the site onto the ratepayer in Kirklees.”

A supporting statement to the planning application by Leeds-based Roger Lee Planning on behalf of Prospect Estates details the extra costs which also involves the site developer Paddico.

It states: “Fixed and frozen interest on costs incurred from 16 June 2015, loaned by Prospect Estates Ltd to the landowner Paddico (267) Ltd. This is a £25,000 per annum fixed loan by Prospect Estates Ltd to Paddico (267) Ltd, at £68.49 per day over 2,535 days in the period from 16 June 2015 to 25 May 2022, which results in an overall loan amount of £173,622.15.

“Annual management costs incurred by Prospect Estates Ltd in managing the site for Paddico (267) Ltd at £1,000 per month over an 83-month period which results in overall costs of £83,000.

“Consultants and legal fees incurred in dealing with objections, inquiries and judicial reviews associated with Reserved Matters, the Definitive Map Modification Order application and Stopping-up Orders (S257), resulting in costs of £148,950.

“To be added to this is a 10% handling cost by Prospect Estates on administration and processing of all invoices (coming to £14,895.00). Overall costs are £163,845.

“The total costs are £420,467. These costs are over and above the normal expected costs associated with bringing forward an outline planning permission through the reserved matters and discharge of conditions stages to then be able to start construction works on the development.

“It is clear the costs incurred of £420,467 would make the development unviable if the contributions were made as originally agreed.”

Roger Lee Planning did not reply to a request for comment by email. Huddersfield Hub also left two voicemail messages but there was no response.

* Written by ANDY HIRST who runs his own Yorkshire freelance journalism agency AH! PR ( specialising in press releases, blogging and copywriting. Copyright Andy Hirst.