CHAINSAW TUESDAY: 10 YEARS AGO
The Battle for the Mill Pond and its wet woodland - fighting in a small back street of Hebden Bridge
Ten years ago today there was fighting in the back streets of Hebden Bridge. It was at the height of the property boom and developers were buying up any scrap of land they could find. One such scrap was the old Mill Pond land bounded by the Hebden Water, Spring Grove and Windsor Road/ Windsor Terrace.
A company, created solely for the purpose of developing the Mill Pond, called itself Green Tops. It wanted to build luxury 'eco-homes'. Over several weeks, local residents had prevented their workers with chainsaws from felling trees on the land. As soon as they arrived, neighbours rang each other and knocked on doors.
The conflict came to a head on Tuesday, 19 October 2004, starting around 7.30 in the morning.
The HebWeb reported, " . . . residents awoke to find an army of security guards all along Windsor View. They attacked anyone who tried to get near or go over the wall to the Mill Pond or exercise their right of way through the Mill Pond. They were abusive and aggressive."
Security guards were bussed in from Liverpool to prevent residents going on to the land, while a gang of chainsaw operatives started felling the trees. Within minutes, residents from all around descended on Windsor View to remonstrate with the security guards. Scuffles broke out, youngsters found their way in and started climbing the trees, police were called, phone calls were made to the Council and Environment Agencies.
It was three hours before the order was given to stop the destruction. By which time, a lot of damage had been done. Much of Mill Pond had been flattened.
Green Tops was a shadowy organisation and it was some time before it became clear who was behind it. The company had one named director, Richard Broome. At a public meeting which followed the media publicity about the event, a consortium of three local businessmen appeared as spokesmen for the organisation: Phil Bradby, Mark Clyndes and Philip Bintliff.
Media interest was intense. Radio Leeds, Yorkshire Evening Post, Halifax Courier, HB Times and Radio4's You and Yours were among those who covered the conflict.
Digital photography was still in its early days so many of the photos are not as sharp as they would be today. However, they were posted on the HebWeb the very same day. Still quite cutting edge for the time. More photos can be seen by clicking the links to the news items which were posted that day - see below.
Broadband was only just coming to Hebden Bridge. Those people who actually had Internet access were still were connecting by slow dialup modems; this explains why the following video is so small. But it's worth playing as it really catches the atmosphere, especially the shouting, the aggression of the security people, dogs barking and the sound of the chainsaws. We will endeavour to put a larger copy on YouTube.
After a strong and effective campaign by local residents, Green Tops failed to get planning permission and within a couple of years went into liquidation. On 6 December, 2006, residents breathed a sigh of relief when, as the HebWeb reported, "A local resident, who wishes to remain anonymous, successfully bought the land at an auction held last Wednesday at Manchester Airport, bringing to a close a chapter in the Millpond's history that began with Green Tops Ltd."
Since then, the residents have created the Milltown Community Alliance Ltd to manage the land and keep it as a wet woodland for all to enjoy. The trees have grown back and last year, thanks to Crows, a proper footpath through the Millpond was created. (See HebWeb News, Nov 2013).
If you were present and wish to write a few words, we will add contributions below. Click here to upload your message.
This feature will be further developed. See links below for news and more photos.
From Viv Boardman
Sunday, 19 October 2014
I remember it well, and am glad to have played a small part. (I'm in the Save Our Woodland pic, 5th from the left, in front of my husband Dave). It's fantastic what community pressure can achieve.
Links to old news and photos
HebWeb News: Battle of the Mill Pond (19 October 2004)
HebWeb News: Battle of the Mill Pond - more images (19 October 2004)
HebWeb News: Millpond Demo (Nov 2004)
HebWeb News: Green Tops meeting - a "shambles" (Nov 2004).
HebWeb News: Residents now own the Mill Pond (Dec 2006).
Last updated: Sunday, 19 October 2014