Council defends green belt land plan after criticism from MP

MP for North East Derbyshire, Lee Rowley.
MP for North East Derbyshire, Lee Rowley.

A council has come under fire over claims it is failing to protect green belt land.

North East Derbyshire District Council approved its draft Local Plan – which identifies areas where developments can be considered – at a recent cabinet meeting.

But Conservative MP for the area, Lee Rowley, has accused the Labour-led authority of ignoring calls from communities to scrap proposals to remove land from the green belt.

“I’m extremely disappointed that North East Derbyshire District Council has disregarded the views of residents and have put forward a very similar development plan to the draft last year,” he said.

“It is clear, following the consultation last year, that residents do not want land taken out of the greenbelt to be flagged for future development.

“Dronfield, Coal Aston, Eckington and Killamarsh could see vast changes to the character of their areas if the plan goes ahead to remove land from the green belt.

“There are also unnecessary sites proposed on land near Tupton and North Wingfield, which should be reconsidered.”

Mr Rowley’s calls were also echoed by Councillor Martin Thacker, leader of the Conservative Group at North East Derbyshire District Council. He said: “There is absolutely no requirement to remove land from the green belt or build on the green belt to meet the district’s housing needs. Further housing developments can and should be built in more appropriate areas, in line with the views of local residents. The council should withdraw their draft local plan as soon as possible and explore all possible options to protect our greenbelt.”

A petition with 4.000 signatures opposing the council’s Local Plan has been submitted by Dronfield Greenfield Residents’ Group. Lynne Gadsden, spokesman for the group, said: “Many local people feel that new housing on these sites would unnecessarily and irrevocably damage the countryside and character of these towns and villages, to the detriment of the whole district.”

In response to the criticism, a North East Derbyshire District Council spokesman, said: “On the 14th of February 2018, North East Derbyshire District Council’s cabinet considered a report on the council’s Publication Plan – an updated version of the council’s Draft Local Plan.

“The Publication Plan sets out the policies and proposals that we consider are the most appropriate for the area to meet the needs of the district up to 2034 and is the version we intend to submit to the Government for independent examination.

“Cabinet approved the document for publication consultation, and as a result, a six-week period of consultation will run from 21 February to 3 April 2018 – including four public consultation events.

“Consultation on our Draft Local Plan took place in February 2017, when 32 per cent of the 6,600 homes required to be built over the 20 year plan period was earmarked on land proposed for release from the green belt.

“Under the new Publication Plan, this figure has now been almost halved to 19 per cent, which represents just 0.6 per cent of all green belt land in the district.”

Residents can attend a council meeting on Monday at 2pm at its base on Mill Lane, Wingerworth.

The new draft local plan has been published and is open for consultation.