Holmfirth retailers warn parking ban will put them out of business

By Tony Earnshaw, Local Democracy Reporter

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Pictured in Holmfirth town centre: Baker Greg Christofi, Colne Valley MP Jason McCartney, newsagent Kevin Ball and Cllr Donald Firth. Photo: Andy Catchpool

Retailers in Holmfirth have called for a re-think on plans to ban some parking on one of the town’s main streets.

They have been backed by Colne Valley MP Jason McCartney, who described a £4m plan to ease traffic movements as “wasteful” if it damages local businesses.

Shopkeepers based on Victoria Street say Kirklees Council’s plans to strip away parking bays on one side to improve traffic flow could kill off passing trade and affect deliveries.

One businessman, baker Greg Christofi, said that could mean losing up to 40 per cent of his weekly trade, which will in turn threaten 32 jobs.

“The council has already killed off Huddersfield town centre. Does it want to kill off Holmfirth, too,” Christofi commented.

Newsagent Kevin Ball said the council’s plan was “a disaster waiting to happen” and suggested the introduction of “very short-stay” parking to aid retailers.

The so-called Holmfirth Town Action Plan aims to ease congestion, improve journey times, create better access for residents, workers and business owners, and enhance the town as a tourist destination.

If it goes ahead it will be paid for with government cash distributed via West Yorkshire Combined Authority (WYCA), a group of leading councillors and officers from West Yorkshire councils, plus York, that works on major infrastructure projects.

Victoria Street in Holmfirth, where highways engineers want to ban parking on one side of the road. Traders say it will make deliveries impossible. (Photo: Andy Catchpool)

The concerns of some businesses over the impact of parking restrictions were raised during a testy exchange at the council’s decision-making Cabinet on 16 February.

Cllr Nigel Patrick (Con, Holme Valley South) said some businesses had not even been told of the plans.

He asked: “Is this Labour’s idea of regeneration: putting people out of business and putting jobs at risk?”

Labour’s Cllr Peter McBride accepted there were “difficulties” with Victoria Street but that a compromise was required over which side of the road was granted parking.

He said to not make a decision risked losing the WYCA money.

He added: “There is another alternative: we could just abandon everything.

“We seem to consistently get to this point. An almost complete impasse, no willingness or inability to compromise, because whichever side of the road is allowed the parking, there is a problem. One must concede that.

“Some decision has to be made that will compromise to some degree the interests of one side of the road or the other.”

The retailers’ frustrations mark the latest stage in what has become a scrappy stand-off between some businesses and the council.

In March 2019 the council unveiled a £4.9m road scheme that involved the demolition of the town’s Market Hall and the creation of a new bridge across the River Holme linking Hollowgate with the A6024.

Victoria Street was earmarked to become one-way only and a mini roundabout was to be created at the junction of Victoria Street, Hollowgate, Town Gate and Dunford Road.

However the plan was scrapped within months. The latest design is the one causing so much consternation.

Cllr Patrick commented: “If the council had come up with this scheme in the first place, we would have said no.

“It would never have seen the light of day because of the damage it does to the shops on Victoria Street.

“The council didn’t want the link road but they’re still knocking down the market hall. So they’re getting money to knock that down to build another pay and display car park to make money.”

His ward colleague Cllr Donald Firth added: “The council is taking money out of Holmfirth because shopkeepers will lose out.

“Kirklees Council’s job is to attract businesses into the town but they have a habit of doing things that drive businesses away.”

He said it was “counter-productive” to spend £4m on a new roads plan “and then put half the shops on the main street out of business.”

He added: “It’s the first time we have had the opportunity to get this kind of money into Holmfirth and the council can’t get it right.”

Colne Valley MP Jason McCartney said: “The council are looking to spend £4m here and they really should not be wasting it on a scheme that damages local businesses.

“They are the heart and soul of the town.

“The council needs to sit down with them to make sure that this scheme works for them and that the money is spent on the local economy and businesses to help Holmfirth flourish as a great tourist destination.”