A BATTLE is looming over plans for a massive housing development at Penistone.

A groundswell of opposition is already forming over proposals for at least 450 new homes on land at Wellhouse Lane.

Worried residents cite concerns over traffic congestion and an adverse impact on schools and health services.

But the two firms behind the scheme say the homes are much-needed and that the development will deliver around £2m in funding for the community.

More than 150 people filed into a consultation at the community centre - the opening shot in the planning process.

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However, Penistone ward councillor Hannah Kitching dismissed the session as ‘a box-ticking exercise’, and added: “This is pristine greenfield land and I don’t believe this development is appropriate.”

And town councillor David Wood said the plans by Barratt Homes and David Wilson Homes were ‘a nightmare’.

The land south of Halifax Road is allocated for housing development in Barnsley’s Adopted Local Plan (HS75). The proposed development will offer two, three and four-bedroom properties - of which around 30 per cent will be affordable homes.

The companies say the proposals will also provide financial contributions to improve local services and facilities - including schools. A large number of jobs will also be created during construction.

David Coe, development director at Barratt Homes, said: “Barnsley Council has recognised the need to release additional housing sites to meet its current and future needs.

“This site is one of those identified for release for new housing. We believe the development will provide much-needed housing for people in a convenient and sustainable location.

“We are committed to working with the community.”

Mr Coe said money would be provided to upgrade schools and public transport with the scheme offering access to the interchange at Penistone.

He said a planning application should be submitted to Barnsley Council by the end of February and added: “This is the first consultation on the plans. We are looking to meet ward and town councillors and individuals to hear their concerns.”

A spokesman for the two firms said later that attendance at the consultation had been ‘pleasing’.

“It was a good opportunity to explain the proposals and process to the community and answer questions,” he said. “This is the start of the detailed consultation process which will continue over the coming weeks and months.

“We have also agreed to meet with residents adjoining the site on a one-to-one basis to explain the proposals in more detail.”

Coun Kitching said: “This is a box-ticking exercise. There is no excuse for building on land such as this and this is why I voted against the Local Plan, which does not have enough provision built in for infrastructure.

“The town as things stand can’t cope even before such a swelling of the population. How will schools, roads, GPs etc manage?

“Most people who buy these homes will be commuters. But other towns where that is the case have the roads to deal with the situation or trains and a viable bus service. These are things Penistone does not have.

“It will impact massively on the look of the area. I want to see the planning department holding the developers to account with regard to the Neighbourhood Development Plan.”

Fellow ward councillor David Greenhough could not comment on the plans themselves as he is a member of the planning committee. But he did say: “It is clear the people of Penistone don’t want this. They are worried about the ability of the town to cope.”

Coun Wood said: “Parking and traffic is already a nightmare and we want answers to all the questions. I have a great many concerns.”

One resident at the consultation was worried for her 90-year-old mother who lives near the proposed development site.

“She lives in a bungalow which will be overlooked,” she said. “And often it is hard to get in and out of her drive for traffic now so she fears for what will happen when so many more cars are in the area. She thinks the road will become a rat-run.

“She is devastated.”

Another resident raised the issue of accidents on Wellhouse Lane and the impact of hundreds more vehicles.

More than 400 homes - but £2m extra funding

INFORMATION boards at the consultation went into detail as to what the development would involve.

They explained that this is a 15-hectare site in ‘a convenient and sustainable location’ for which pedestrian and cycle access would be provided.

A transport assessment is promised along with a travel plan aimed at encouraging people to use public transport.

It was pointed out that the homes would be in walking distance of bus stops.

Car parking levels are yet to be agreed.

The boards pointed out that Penistone Grammar School is near the site’s western boundary and that developers would work with Barnsley Council regarding the potential impact on local schools and other services.

The information said it was expected the development would deliver more than £2m of funding for extra school places, open spaces and transport improvements.

According to the information, there would be 135 affordable homes among the mostly two-storey houses.

New vehicle access would be created from Halifax Road and Wellhouse Lane and around 15 per cent of the site would be public open space with landscaping.