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Debate over Keighley health hub turns ugly at Bradford Council meeting

Thursday, June 9th, 2022 8:47pm

By Chris Young, Local Democracy Reporter

Debate over a planned health hub in Keighley turned ugly at a Bradford Council meeting, with opponents of the scheme being escorted out of the Council chamber by security.

There were shouts of “we protest” and “undemocratic” as the opponents, including Keighley Town Councillors, were removed, and after the meeting they accused Bradford Council of ignoring the wishes of the town.

The town’s MP Robbie Moore called the situation “absolutely disgraceful.”

Bradford Council’s leader has hit back by saying the scene was unacceptable, and “unlike anything we’ve seen before in a council meeting.”

Plans to build a new multi-million pound health hub on the former Keighley College site, at the junction of North Street and Cavendish Street, date back a number of years.

However, the proposals have divided Keighley.

When the college re-located in 2006, Bradford Council purchased the site using a £4.1 million grant from regional development agency Yorkshire Forward, and announced it would be used for a “regeneration opportunity.”

When the college buildings were demolished in 2017, the site was grassed over, and it currently remains a public green space.

Many in the town want the land to remain green, possibly becoming a new park named after Captain Tom Moore, and have pushed for the Council to find another site for the health hub.

But the Council has argued that the grant from Yorkshire Forward was dependent on the site being developed, and that the central site was the best location for a health hub.

The hub made up part of the £33m Government Towns Fund grant to Keighley, and the Council and health organisations involved in plans for the hub hope it will get over £3m through this grant.

An artist’s impression of the planned centre was released last month, and a business case for the scheme will be presented to the Government by the Keighley Towns Fund board, of which Mr Moore is a member, later this month.

There have been two petitions regarding the hub – one signed by over 2,000 people calling for the plans for a facility on the North Street site to be scrapped and another location found.

The other, signed by 2,500 people, was in favour of a facility on this site.

The petition by the objectors went before Bradford Council’s Executive at a meeting in November, where members voted to push ahead with the plans.

The petition by supporters of the scheme was discussed by the Executive at a meeting on Tuesday.

Those in favour said the hub would help reduce health inequalities in the area, and pointed out that the site had, until recently, been taken up by buildings.

Councillor Moshin Hussain (Lab, Keighley Central) said: “In Keighley we have been waiting two decades for a good health hub.

“It is shocking to see that there is opposition to this.”

He accused Mr Moore, who was not at the meeting, of making “misleading social media posts” about the hub, and doing “nothing but cause division.”

Those speaking in favour of the scheme were given six minutes to speak between them.

Six opponents of the scheme attended the meeting, and they were informed they would also be given six minutes to speak between themselves.

Councillor Julie Glentworth (Cons, Keighley West) said there were numerous unanswered questions about the plans, and claimed potential tenants of the hub were reconsidering their involvement.

Jane Lee, one of the objectors, said: “We didn’t say we don’t want a hub, we just want it in the right place.”

She questioned the validity of the petition in favour of the hub, saying: “A lot of the signatures were collected from the BAME community, and so are not representative of the wider Keighley community.”

She claimed people were pressured into signing the petition with claims that one of the town’s existing surgeries might close.

Objectors were then told their time to speak was up.

Councillor Imran Khan, Deputy Leader of the Council, said: “I’m amazed people are objecting to this. It is a golden opportunity to get something really good for Keighley.”

Council Leader Susan Hinchcliffe said it was a “positive development” and she hoped work could begin “as quickly as possible.”

The item ended without some of the objectors having been given time to speak, including Keighley Town Councillor Paul Cook.

As the item came to a close, objectors expressed dismay that they were unable to speak, with one shouting “we protest” and another “you are a shameful Council leader.”

As they were asked to leave they shouted “disgraceful” and “undemocratic.”

Eventually, a security guard ushered them out of the chamber.

After the meeting, Cllr Cook said he had “waited patiently for two hours” for his chance to speak, “before being told we have five minutes between us. We protested, but our protest wasn’t heard.

“Keighley doesn’t want to see this monstrosity on the green space.”

He said linking the space to Keighley-born Captain Tom Moore would help boost tourism in the town, adding: “We don’t want a building there, there are plenty of buildings not being used in Keighley.

“They are not listening to Keighley Town Council, and they are not listening to the people of Keighley.”

He suggested the former Hattersley’s site as a possible replacement site for the hub, and that the North Street site should be transferred to Keighley Town Council.

Objectors claimed they were only given four minutes and 23 seconds to speak at the meeting.

After being told what had happened at the meeting, Keighley MP Robbie Moore issued a statement saying: “This is yet another clear example of absolutely disgraceful behaviour from Labour-run Bradford Council when it comes to their treatment of my constituents and ignoring Keighley’s views. When it comes to the Green Space on North Street, and just about everything else, they constantly make it clear they are not bothered about the hearing my constituents’ opinions.

“For Council Leader Susan Hinchcliffe to not let the Keighley Town Councillor responsible for the green space campaign speak, whilst allowing others over five minutes, is shocking, and a true reflection of Bradford Council’s unwillingness to listen.

“I am totally in favour of building a new Health and Wellbeing Centre in Keighley, we need one. Indeed, I helped secure the funding for it from the Government. However, it does not have to be built on one of the few green spaces in the centre of Keighley when there are so many other options available. Labour-run Bradford Council have refused to consider any other options, and by their actions at their Executive meeting, they are continuing to run rough shod on the people of Keighley.”

The Council put out a statement saying both sides had been given equal time to speak.

Cllr Hinchcliffe said: “For the individuals from the Town Council to shout and yell in that way was unlike anything we’ve seen before in a council meeting, it was completely unacceptable and they did a gross disservice to the brilliant people of Keighley who, whichever side of the debate they are on, would expect their representatives to respect the fair balance of debate.

“Both sides have been given the opportunity to speak about their petitions. We are focused on delivering the best with the people of Keighley, who deserve top class health facilities in the heart of town.”

The Council statement added: “The individuals had the opportunity to have their own petition against the health facility heard and debated at council meetings last year. However, after the debate at Full Council, when the Executive asked to have the item discussed at the next Executive meeting, they didn’t show up to present their views.”

Councillor Alex Ross-Shaw, Executive Member for Regeneration, Planning and Transport, said: “Regardless of all our different views on issues, to have an important debate marred in that horrendous way by yelling like that, it was hugely disappointing. The Executive meeting was at least the fourth time we’ve debated the issue in recent times. We’ve debated petitions for and against the facility at Full Council twice and at the Executive twice in the last year alone. It has been given a very thorough debate and scrutiny and rightly so.”

Since the meeting Cllr Cook has arranged a town meeting to discuss the possibility of holding a referendum on building on the green space. It will be held on 22nd June at 6pm.

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