Chesterfield Borough Council's balancing act between new homes and 'treasured' green spaces will 'only get worse'
Chesterfield council leaders admit they have an ongoing ‘balancing act’ to meet housing demand while ensuring the town’s treasured green spaces are not lost.
Protecting the Green Belt from ‘unsuitable development’ is described as a ‘key priority’ for Chesterfield Borough Council but planning officials face a battle to find space for enough new homes amid tough housing targets set by central government.
Some councillors believe this situation will ‘only get worse’ thanks to Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s latest planning legislation.
Coun Tricia Gilby, leader of Chesterfield Borough Council, said: “We never put Green Belt land forward for development, and always consider how brownfield land can be used wherever this is viable.
“However, it is a balancing act for us to do to this while also meeting the needs of the borough, particularly in providing enough quality homes for our residents, now and in the future.
“In developing or considering plans we value the voice of residents and their views are always taken into consideration when we have to assess the impact of a potential housing site, or other development.
“Over the last year our green spaces have become even more treasured by local people, as a place to enjoy some fresh air, relaxation and exercise, and we will strive to protect these spaces as far as we can.”
The current local plan aims to ensure 60 per cent of the borough’s housing comes from brownfield sites – but the authority says not all of this land will be suitable because of flood risk, contamination or other issues.
A council spokesperson said: “Although we do have a lot of such land in the borough, it’s not enough to meet all of the housing needs, and we also need to reflect that such sites can be complex and take a long time to bring forward for development.
"Inevitably we do need to look at some greenfield sites.
"We focus on areas where the impact on landscape and habitat can be minimised, and where new residents can have a choice to walk to many of the facilities they need day to day."
There are times when the final decision is taken away from the Town Hall, and the council admits it can be ‘disappointing’ when appeals by developers are upheld by planning inspectors in London.
Although the council says this is ‘the exception rather than the rule’, it did happen when plans for homes at Northmoor View, Brimington, were initially thrown out by councillors but supported by the planning inspectorate.
Liberal Democrat group leader Paul Holmes agreed brownfield sites should be redeveloped before green fields – but admitted councils have limited powers.
Coun Holmes said: “If developers prefer to build on green field sites rather than brownfield, the council cannot stop them. Green field sites are of course quicker, easier, more attractive and more profitable.
"This is why large ex-industrial sites such as the old Staveley Steel Works at Barrow Hill or the Robinsons sites along Chatsworth Road tend to stand unused, while green field sites are quickly snapped up.”
Coun Holmes says this will ‘only get worse’ with the Government’s proposed new legislation, announced in the Queen’s Speech yesterday, in which he says ‘councils and local residents alike will, in effect, no longer be able to raise objections to individual planning applications’.