Chesterfield community 'clings to hope' its green oasis can avoid being swallowed up by 150-homes plan
Gently sloping fields form a natural area of open space between Brimington and built-up Chesterfield – a green oasis treasured by generations of families.
From the summit, one of the highest points in the borough, Chesterfield opens up in front of you, with the footpath a haven for dog walkers and bird watchers.
Residents often see buzzards circling in the skies above and councillors say during the coronavirus pandemic the path through the fields has become a ‘highway’ for people out enjoying their daily exercise.
However, within a few years 6.6 hectares of this open space will be covered in houses, the footpath reduced to Tarmac and another area of open space in the borough swallowed up by development.
Building company the Vistry Group has planning permission to build 150 homes on the land, off Northmoor View, Brimington, with residents ‘clinging to the hope’ the developers could be held up by recent archaeological finds.
Developers’ initial plans for 300 homes were thrown out by Chesterfield Borough Council, and the authority’s planning committee also rejected the current scaled down bid for 150 properties.
However, after an appeal in 2019, the planning inspectorate granted planning permission – a decision which many people in the area cannot understand.
Coun Tricia Gilby, who represents Brimington South and has fought the development for many years, said you ‘would struggle to find anyone in Brimington, or indeed Chesterfield who wanted it to go ahead’.
"Our local, democratically-elected planning committee supported the views of the community against the plans throughout,” Coun Gilby said.
"It was a government planning inspector, listening to highly paid barristers who took the opposite decision. What does that say about local democracy?”
Coun Gilby said members of the community were ‘devastated’ and ‘angry’ when the inspector ruled against them.
She is now determined to protect as much of the local amenity as she can be scrutinising the design of the homes and the wider development – which will be considered by the planning committee later in the year.
"The views here are lovely but planning laws cannot protect a view,” she said. “But you do have a right for new properties not to overlook your home.
"The path, which has become a highway for dog walkers during the pandemic, and even before it, would be turned into a pavement under the latest plans.
"We will be fighting that and also making sure there is not too much clustering of new houses. Concerns people at the other side of the development, on Chesterfield Road, have about drainage must also be listened to.”
Martin Davis, 70, whose bungalow looks out over the site, said he and neighbours had objected to the development from day one.
"There is no one here who wants it, and it would never have gone ahead if it had not gone down to London for them to decide,” Mr Davis said.
"At my age it won’t affect me but this land should be left for future generations to enjoy. We have people coming up here on bikes to go birdwatching and making use of an open space.”
Brimington residents Michael and Margaret Rotchell said they were concerned the path would be ruined.
"What is currently a pleasant, open path away from traffic, and with excellent views of the surrounding countryside, is replaced by a path running alongside a road and crossing other roads,” the couple said.
Other residents continue to object to the proposals because of concerns about the strain on schools, doctors’ surgeries and the already heavily congested A619.
Last year, Chesterfield Borough Council held an air quality consultation in Brimington after national air quality objectives for Nitrogen Dioxide (NO2) were exceeded on Church Street.
Campaigners fear this will only get worse with an estimated extra 225 cars from the development.
Coun Gilby says many residents are still ‘clinging to the hope’ the development could be delayed by archaeological finds.
Chesterfield and District Civic Society has called for excavation prior to development to explore the possible occupation of the hill-top site during the Roman period and the exploitation in the Middle Ages of ironstone.
Society chairman Philip Riden said the excavation need ‘could yield genuinely useful results’.
The long-running saga is typical of new homes developments across Chesterfield and Derbyshire.
In neighbouring North East Derbyshire and Bolsover, as well as Amber Valley and the Derbyshire Dales, residents have formed groups to oppose further loss of green spaces.
In North East Derbyshire, much of the attention has focused on the A61 corridor and Wingerworth.
Rippon Homes was given outline planning permission last year to build 180 new homes to the north of Spindle Drive after an appeal – despite ‘major concerns’ about the density of the development.
Chesterfield and District Civic Society said it meant even ‘more of the limited remaining open space’ would disappear.
North East Derbyshire District Council’s cabinet member for the environment, Councillor Charlotte Cupit, insisted the authority had ‘made huge improvements to planning’ and a new local plan will go even further.
Elsewhere, in Bolsover district a small group of campaigners have fought a determined campaign to save an area of green space in Glapwell from development, and in Amber Valley the battle continues over major developments in the Denby area.
Developers for the Brimington site, the Vistry Group, say their project will eventually provide much-needed housing and construction jobs.
A Vistry Group spokesperson said: "The archaeological works are just a small part of the significant community benefits and investment surrounding this development – on top of the provision of much-needed new homes and jobs.
"Work is progressing well, we are liaising closely with all other parties and we are getting ready to start on the construction work as soon as possible."