'No evidence' that Amazon facility will bring hundreds of jobs, say critics

Campaigners have stepped up their fight for answers over the promise of jobs at a controversial distribution facility planned for farmland off the M62 near Cleckheaton.

Thursday, 23rd September 2021, 7:00 am
The farmland near Cleckheaton that has been earmarked for a 'monstrous' warehouse believed to be for online giant Amazon

Planning officers with Kirklees Council say the massive site between Whitehall Road, Whitechapel Road and the motorway, which has been linked to Amazon, is “acceptable in principle” because when completed it could employ around 1,500 people.

That figure has become the focus of fierce debate with protesters arguing that there is no evidence that future employment will reach such levels – or, if they do, that local people will benefit.

Among the most vocal critics of the scheme is Baroness Kath Pinnock, who is also a Liberal Democrat councillor for Cleckheaton.

An illustrative masterplan of how the proposed Amazon distribution centre near Cleckheaton could look. Image: ISG Retail Ltd (Bristol)

She said she and other campaigners had previously asked planners to question the job numbers and to provide a breakdown of job types and indicative pay.

Despite that information being requested by campaigners and then by planners in July, a response has yet to be provided.

She rejected the suggestion that there would be "local jobs for local people” and doubted that 1,500 jobs would materialise.

She said: “There’s talk of 1,500 jobs but how many will be based locally and what will the pay levels be?

“Will all the skilled jobs be elsewhere?

“One of the issues is that a lot of these distribution sites depend on automated systems, and a lot of the IT workers will not be located here in the UK. They could be in India or China.”

In its application for full planning permission dated June 22, agent FirstPlan said the development “represents an exciting opportunity to boost the local economy, delivering a significant number of jobs”.

Action group Save Our Spen, which is fighting the scheme on behalf of local residents, says it has “serious concerns” about the number and quality of jobs promised by the development.

A spokeswoman said: “Kirklees Council have relied heavily on the claim that this development will bring much-needed jobs to the area.

“The leader of the council has openly boasted about it and the developers were keen to push this claim during the pre-application stage.

“However, investigations have revealed that the vast majority of the jobs are low-skilled, low-paid and in poor working conditions.

“Are these really the type of jobs Kirklees needs? Not according to Kirklees Council’s own economic strategy.

"There is no shortage of this type of employment. Hundreds of such jobs are advertised on a daily basis in Kirklees and surrounding districts.

“Considering the advances in robotics and the drive towards automation, those job numbers will continue to decline.”

In their initial report planning officers said that even though the scope of the scheme “exceeds the development capacity” outlined in the Local Plan’s allocation document, it would contribute towards the council’s target of delivering 23,000 jobs by 2031.

Save Our Spen argued that that followed a successful campaign by the council to persuade a Government planning inspector to remove the 59-acre site from green belt “on the promise of ‘advanced manufacturing and precision engineering’ jobs”.

The spokeswoman added: “We believe it is time for Kirklees Council to do what they promised and deliver on those skilled jobs, providing the children of Kirklees [with] a brighter future where they can flourish.

“This development is not needed and should be rejected.”