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Thursday, December 7, 2023

Clashing views on health hub

Clashing views on plans for a new multi million pound health facility in Keighley have once again emerged, with the local MP expressing “frustration” over the plans.

Proposals to build a new health hub on the former Keighley College site on North Street have divided opinion in recent years.

Supporters say it would introduce a much-needed new facility to the town centre. But opponents say the site should be left as a public green space, and a new location for the centre should be sought.

The scheme is partly being funded through the Keighley Towns Fund, a £33m Government grant to regenerate the town centre.

At a meeting of the Towns Fund board – made up of local business representatives, Council officers and politicians, these clashing opinions were stark, with Keighley MP Robbie Moore reiterating his opinion that the board should look for other sites for the hub, and local business representatives adamant that the North Street site is the ideal location.

The Board’s meeting are not in public – the only details of what was discussed available are in the minutes of meetings made available on Bradford Council’s website.

The minutes of the last meeting, in March, have now been published.

The health hub plan is currently on pause after being referred to a Government Minister by Mr Moore – who wants the plans re-drawn and another site in the town found for the long planned project.

The minutes of the March meeting say: “RM (Robbie Moore) – Raised frustrations with this project and indicated that there wasn’t a full site analysis of other sites that should have been explored within the timeframes.

“IH (Ian Hayfield – local businessman and Chair of the Towns Fund) clarified with RM that the report has gone to DLUCH (Department of Levelling Up, Homes and Communities), and includes RM’s objections to full site analyses.

“However, he indicated that the preferred site is likely to be approved given the timescales.

“RM supports a health and wellbeing hub in Keighley but not that specific location.

“GW (Georgina Webster, of Keighley Creative) clarified that the Towns Fund board did agree for that project to go ahead apart from objections raised by RM.

“LC (Lorraine Coates) agreed that the report includes the Boards approval for that location.

“It was called in by the minister due to the lack of consensus on the site.”

At a recent meeting of Bradford Council’s Keighley Area Committee, members were told that choosing a different site for the hub could add several million pounds to the project – throwing it into jeopardy.

The North Street site is owned by Bradford Council, and officers said the use of this land would mean the purchase and preparation of a new site was not needed.

The Towns Fund meeting also discussed a “parish poll” held in Keighley last year to gauge opinion on the future of the site.

The majority of respondents said they wanted the site retained as green space, and for the health hub to be built on a different site.

But the minutes of the latest Towns Fund Board meeting show a prominent business boss raised concern about assigning too much weight to this poll, pointing out fewer than one in ten of the Keighley electorate voted.

The minutes say: “SS (Steve Seymore, Manager of the Airedale Shopping Centre) – Indicated his concerns with the poll for the Health & Wellbeing Centre included the low number of responses, believed to be nine per cent of the electorate.”

At the same meeting it emerged that another Towns Fund backed scheme, improvements to Keighley Cougar’s grounds, was about to be submitted as a planning application.

The club had previously announced that the work will include a new stand, boxing gym and more accessible changing facilities.

The minutes of the meeting say: “RM would like more information about this project and questioned delivery and timescales, which have to be delivered around matches during the season. IH would like a full update and presentation of current position regarding Keighley Cougars due to the value and importance of the project.”

Other projects funded by the Towns Fund will include the refurbishment and extension of Haworth Village Hall and improvements to the roof of Haworth’s Old School Room – a historic building in the heart of the village with Bronte connections.

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