Dispute over fees may mean last of Holmfirth's 'Summer Wine'

Click to follow

For the past 32 years, life has been imitating TV and Sid's Café (as it is known in both) now welcomes 20,000 visitors a year, many drawn by Britain's longest-running comedy. But the fame and prosperity that the programme has brought the area is not enough for a number of local residents, some of whom have just asked for a £500 compensation fee for the disruption caused by filming outside their homes, rather than the usual £50.

Alan Bell, executive producer of Last of the Summer Wine, is furious. "We appreciate that people need access to their homes and businesses but they're making crazy demands," he said.

Some residents have deep-rooted frustrations. "They've turned it into a place where locals can't even afford to live," said Kevin Power . "I think we would be better if they went."

Mr Bell might do just that. Scenes are said to have been filmed of Norah's house being put up for sale. "We shall be very sad if we have to stop filming in Holmfirth," Mr Bell said.

The people of Holmfirth have had differences with the television people before. A dam in the area was allegedly polluted when two cars were dumped in it for one scene a few years ago. The resulting protest reflected well the delicate business of location filming. But municipal priorities were underlined earlier this year when a local property developer was prosecuted for felling two willow trees and a sycamore tree in a conservation area. "The site is of particular relevance in that the trees are well known to locals and visitors, being at the back of the home of Nora Batty," Kirklees Council's barrister told the court. "They were effectively part of the set and therefore a huge tourist attraction."

Other locations used for filming television series have also felt aggrieved. At Hadfield, in north Derbyshire, tempers were so frayed when a 60-strong BBC crew arrived to film The League of Gentlemen that the Glossop Chronicle ran a story headlined "Plague of Gentlemen". A community meeting was called to discuss what to do if the producers returned for another series.

Yet a research paper a few years ago showed that visitors numbers to a location increase by 77 per cent, on average, five years after the release of a film made there. The number of visitors to Cornwall leapt by 10,000 a year after Poldark came out in the Seventies, while southern Florida saw an almost 20 per cent rise attributed to Miami Vice.

The longevity of "Summer Wine" has made this effect even more pronounced in Holmfirth, where there is every indication that the programme has boosted property prices. Townhouses opposite Norah's house are being sold for £185,000.

A permanent Summer Wine Exhibition, established in 1996, includes props such as Compo's Up Periscope! and his inflatable lady, has been set up next to the Wrinkled Stocking Tearooms. One of the main suppliers to the tearoom is Andrew Bray, president of the Holme Valley Business Association, who insists the town depends on the programme. "I hope we can sort this issue out and keep it here, he said.