Opposition Conservative Councillors have called on the Labour-run North East Derbyshire District Council to take urgent planning measures to stop developments being approved within Local Settlement Gaps - the important buffer land between rural communities.

In a motion put forward by Shirland Ward Councillor, Charlotte Cupit and debated at yesterday’s Council meeting, the Conservative Group called on the authority to:

  • Carry out an urgent review of its planning policies to strengthen the protections afforded to Local Settlement Gaps
  • Create a new policy to establish the special circumstances in which a development could be approved in the buffer land between communities when planning officers are recommending refusal
  • Review and revoke any recently approved applications within the Local Settlement Gaps under Section 97 of the Town & Country Planning Act 1990

The motion follows a spate of planning applications approved by the Council within Local Settlement Gaps. Cllr Cupit used the debate to draw particular attention to an application for potentially over 29 houses on important buffer land between the communities of Stonebroom and Morton. The application was approved by Councillors despite the many planning policies it contravened and planning officers themselves recommending refusal. Questions have also been asked given that the applicant is a senior Labour Councillor.

Surveys conducted in Stonebroom and Morton by the Conservatives show that local residents were overwhelmingly opposed to the decision, with some of the comments received including “disgusting and thoughtless” and “this should never have been passed”.

Despite very little comment during the debate from Labour Councillors who hold the majority in the authority, the motion was rejected after they voted unanimously against it.

Commenting, Cllr Cupit said: “Maintaining the gaps between villages is, rightly, a really important priority for residents. They've told me they're terrified the villages in this area are losing their individual characters. This Council's implementation of current policies is a fudge and a contradiction, with the result that, devastatingly, the critical settlement gap between Stonebroom and Morton will now be lost too. This site was also clearly marked as a settlement gap in the Council's new Local Plan, so serious questions must be asked about the dangerous precedent being set here."

Deputy Leader of the Conservative Group, Cllr Alex Dale, who seconded the motion, added: “This has long been an issue for communities in the south of the District who have not benefitted from the added protection of being within the green belt. Literally hundreds of houses have been approved in recent years, partly as a result of Labour’s abject failure to get a Local Plan in place, but also because of dubious decision making on applications like their own Councillor’s one in Stonebroom.”

Cllr Martin Thacker, Leader of the Conservative Group, added: “We are extremely disappointed that Labour voted down this important motion, despite offering no valid arguments for why it couldn’t be supported. What’s worse is that one Labour member representing Stonebroom left the Chamber when the vote was being called – he really should have been there to represent the views of the people he was elected to serve.”