A country pub at the heart of its community has been allowed to extend into the Green Belt after reducing its expansion plans.

The Dunkirk Inn at Denby Dale had wanted to extend, increasing the size of the premises by 62%.

Councillors were concerned at the encroachment into fields behind – part of the Green Belt where development is restricted except in “very special” circumstances – however the pub operators scaled back their plans by around half.

Kirklees Council’s Heavy Woollen planning committee, which met virtually, was told that the proposed 33% increase – to accommodate temporary kitchens and a dining area – was now acceptable.

The application had previously been deferred as councillors wanted more information on highway safety.

The pub in Barnsley Road is near a notorious crossroads with Dry Hill Lane, described by objectors as an “accident blackspot” where people have died.

The pub car park, which has 36 spaces, has now been marked out but, the committee was told, many pub-goers park on the roadside as the car park is set away from the pub.

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The Dunkirk shut down in 2016 and was bought by four locals. Two pulled out in 2019. The new plans are aimed at ensuring the viability of the pub going forward and will secure 40 full and part-time jobs.

The pub was said to be at the heart of the community and had a “number of regular, vulnerable and elderly patrons for whom the Dunkirk is their only social contact.”

Groups which sent letters of support for the Dunkirk included Scissett Football Club, Denby Dale Tennis Club, Denby Dale Pie Hall Badminton Club and Greenworks Plus, an employment scheme for people with learning disabilities.

Clr Graham Turner (Lab, Denby Dale) said he was “not happy” that the pub still took in part of the Green Belt “on what is such an exposed site.”

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He said the car park wasn’t well used as people preferred to park beyond the double yellow lines on Dry Hill Lane.

Clr John Lawson (Lib Dem, Cleckheaton) said he was pleased the original “very inflated” proposals had been scaled down and a compromise had been reached.