Wakefield Planning Matters

Stanley Ferry Wakefield

Wakefield district is characterised by the city itself and its neighbouring chain of towns along the River Calder – Horbury, Normanton, Castleford, Knottingley. Slightly detached from the chain is Pontefract, with its Roman origins, Norman castle and penchant for liquorice. Then there are a string of coal mining villages – Featherstone, Ackworth, Fitzwilliam, Hemsworth.

In recent decades, Wakefield district has developed a strong cultural identity in art, thanks to the giants of sculpture, Henry Moore and Barbara Hepworth. This identity is tightly bound into the landscape, and the district sits astride a striking axis of recreational countryside, from the Yorkshire Sculpture Park at Bretton in the west, through Newmillerdam and Wintersett Country Parks in the centre to Nostell Priory in the east.

Wakefield’s countryside has great potential for sustainable travel. Its larger villages are relatively well-served by rail, and the district is not too hilly, so there would be huge scope for cycling. Leadership and investment are needed to make this happen.

The district is not without its challenges, however. The local authority is wedded to an old-school road corridor approach to regenerating Hemsworth, proposing to connect it to Ackworth and Pontefract with a new road that will inevitably become a draw for low-density development as has happened in the Dearne Valley (Barnsley). Generic new-build schemes such as the ironically-named City Fields development outside Wakefield perpetuate car-dependent settlement patterns; and a brand new out-of-town retail ‘village’ is in the pipeline on ex-Green Belt land at Glasshoughton, of a type and size that we hoped had become a thing of the past twenty years ago.