An independent planning inspector has rejected calls by local Conservatives and residents to save parts of the Green Belt in North East Derbyshire. And in a last ditch attempt to save the sites, North East Derbyshire MP Lee Rowley has written to the Secretary of State to urge him to review the inspector’s report.
Local Conservative Councillors have reacted with disappointment to the publication of the independent planning inspector’s final report into North East Derbyshire’s draft local plan, the document which sets out the future housing strategy and planning policies for our area.
Following changes proposed by the inspector, called Main Modifications, a final consultation was launched earlier this year. As part of this consultation, Lee and local councillors urged the inspector to remove the remaining allocations in the Green Belt from the draft Plan, which had already been significantly reduced as a result of previous local campaigns from residents and Conservative Councillors.
The inspector has since been considering all the consultation replies and has now sent her final report to the Council. The inspector has concluded that the amended draft Plan is now ‘legally sound’ and capable of consideration of adoption by the Council.
The adoption of the draft Plan by the District Council would bring a halt to the District’s decade of unplanned and speculative housebuilding and allow only planned growth, and protect the District’s wider Green Belt, but there remains significant concern over several Green Belt housing allocation sites in the North of the District which remain in the plan.
Lee Rowley MP said, “Earlier this year, along with local Conservative Councillors and residents, we continued our campaign to fight against proposed Green Belt development allocations in Dronfield and Killamarsh. I’m disappointed that the inspector didn’t go even further to remove these remaining Green Belt allocations under the same reasoning that she had removed other sites in Coal Aston and Eckington.
“I have asked the Secretary of State to review the inspector’s final report and to urge him to make further changes to remove these remaining Green Belt allocations from the Plan, prior to its adoption.
"It's unusual for Ministers to intervene at this late stage, so we have to accept this is a long shot. For me, it serves to highlight why we needed the previous District Council administration, who put the draft plan together, to do a much better job from the outset. But we'll continue to pursue every avenue to try to improve the situation."
Councillor Alex Dale commented, “Local Conservatives have supported residents in the fight against the loss of Green Belt at every stage of the Local Plan process. We’ve had some success, reducing the amount of houses proposed on Dronfield and Coal Aston's Green Belt from 860, when the Plan was first proposed, to 200 now and defeating a 400 home proposal south of Eckington.
“But we are hugely disappointed that the inspector has rejected the views of local Councillors and hundreds of residents who urged her to go one step further in deleting the last four remaining Green Belt sites in Dronfield and Killamarsh. Working together with residents we have campaigned solidly since 2017 on this issue, holding public meetings, delivering thousands of leaflets to raise awareness and collecting petition signatures. We join Lee in urging the Secretary of State to help us finish the job and protect the Green Belt."
Councillor Charlotte Cupit, Cabinet Member at the Council for Environmental Services, said, “Since taking control of the District Council two years ago, we’ve been trying to fix the Labour administration’s legacy of planning chaos in our area, which has led to a decade without a Local Plan, hundreds of speculative and unplanned houses and strain that we’re now seeing on our infrastructure.
“We inherited a draft plan which was at a late stage of an independent examination process and we’ve been working to try to amend the draft Plan to remove the remaining Green Belt allocations. We’ll keep working to fix the planning mess which hasn’t worked for any part of our District, so that we can then focus on local consultation and positively planning growth and infrastructure improvements in our area in the future.”
Notes & Timeline:
- North East Derbyshire District Council last adopted a Local Development Plan in 2005. It expired in 2011 and since then the Labour-run District Council has taken almost a decade to produce a new Local Plan, when most local authorities were adopting new plans within around 3-4 years.
- As a result, many communities in the south of the District were prone to speculative development which, due to the lack of a Local Plan, were difficult for the Council to fight. This resulted in thousands of new homes being approved in what many communities felt were inappropriate locations.
- When the District Council first published its initial draft of the current Local Plan in 2017, the Plan included proposals for approximately 2000 houses in the Green Belt around the northern towns and villages of Dronfield, Eckington and Killamarsh. Since then, opposition Conservative Councillors have fought many aspects of the Plan, including its green belt proposals, every step of the way.
- During the various consultations since 2017, Conservative Councillors and Lee Rowley MP have organised public meetings, delivered thousands of letters to residents to raise awareness and encourage consultation responses and submitted their own comprehensive objections.
- The active campaigning, alongside local residents, helped see several proposed sites pulled out of the plan, including sites at Hallowes Golf Club and Hilltop in Dronfield.
- In late 2018, together with residents and campaign groups, Conservative Councillors and Lee Rowley MP attended the Public Examination to make the case to the national Planning Inspector that further green belt allocations should be withdrawn.
- In February 2019, the Inspector released her interim findings, which proposed the removal from the Plan of sites for 400 homes in Eckington, 200 homes in Coal Aston and the reduction of a further site in Dronfield at Chesterfield Road as part of upcoming Main Modifications.
- In May 2019, the Conservatives took control of North East Derbyshire District Council from Labour in the local elections and wrote to the Inspector to pause the process while they undertook an review of the options moving forward. In the ensuing period the Council has been seeking advice and reviewing its options to make changes to the Plan. Unfortunately, due to the late stage of the Plan in the adoption process and the tight legal framework that must be worked through, it was not possible to make changes without unpausing the Plan, continuing the process and working with residents to try to convince try the Inspector to make further changes through the final consultation process.
- During Nov 2020 to Jan 2021, the final Main Modifications Consultation took place and throughout the consultation, local Conservatives held public meetings, advice surgeries and delivered thousands of further leaflets to help raise awareness and support residents in submitting responses to it. Councillors and Lee Rowley MP also submitted their own comprehensive responses calling on the Inspector to go further in removing the remaining green belt development sites from the Plan. Several hundred residents, predominantly from Dronfield and Killamarsh, also responded to the consultation.
- July 2021 - The Inspector has now issued her final report and has not accepted the need to remove these remaining Green Belt allocations. Lee Rowley MP has therefore written to the Secretary of State to urge him to "call in" the Local Plan and make the necessary changes to protect the Green Belt.