Fears floodgates could open for thousands of homes on Derbyshire farmland

Councillors are eager to avoid “opening the floodgates” after seeing the number of homes planned on former agricultural sites in Derbyshire increase

By Eddie Bisknell, Local Democracy Reporter
Friday, 4th February 2022, 10:50 am

At an Erewash Borough Council meeting on Wednesday, February 2, two applications were debated which would have seen former or current agricultural buildings turned into homes.

Councillors noted that this trend has increased in recent months and want to ensure that a precedent is not set, with “hundreds of thousands” of agricultural buildings across Erewash.

Last night, councillors quashed two applications, in line with the recommendations of planning officers, to avoid this precedent.

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Councillors are concerned that giving permission to convert some farm buildings into homes would be the 'thin end of the wedge'

The first application, submitted by Howard Barnes, would have seen an existing stable at 30 Morley Lane2, in Stanley, demolished to make way for the single-storey house in the Erewash Green Belt, officers wrote.

It would have included a new access track being created through a field in the Green Belt, but the agent for the applicant, Pegasus Group, argued the home would represent “infill development”.

Georgina Doyle, on behalf of the applicant, said in the meeting: “It is just outside, but abutting the development boundary, in the Green Belt.”

The Derbyshire Times is campaigning to protect our green spaces from inappropriate development

She said council officers had not contested that the application was a redevelopment of land which had already been built on.

Ms Doyle said: “It does not create a greater impact on the countryside than the existing building.

“It would not have a greater impact on the openness of the Green Belt.”

However, Cllr Kevin Miller said: “In Erewash, there are hundreds of thousands of agricultural buildings. If we approve this application, I fear we would be opening the floodgates and I would move refusal to keep the floodgates closed.”

Cllr Howard Griffiths said that the national planning policy promoting the reuse of dormant agricultural buildings had brought such properties “back to life” and had already “opened the floodgates for these sorts of developments in the Green Belt”.

He said the council ought to voice its concerns to Government about the policy and the way it is being used by developers.

Cllr Griffiths said the agricultural buildings in Erewash were being used as “stalking horses” – hiding their true intentions.

Cllr Paul Shelton said: “This is relatively straightforward. The site is in the Green Belt. A line has to be drawn somewhere and this is the wrong side of the line.

“A number of these applications have been submitted in the last few months and we need to be clear that we are not going to let these stalking horses get through.

“This is the thin end of the wedge.”

Meanwhile, a second application, submitted by Martine Comery-Vivian, aimed to convert and extend a derelict agricultural building at Brookside Farm in Rectory Lane, Breadsall, and turn it into a large home.

The single-storey property, called Frog Barn, would be converted and extended to “suit the personal requirements” of the applicant, who has multiple-sclerosis, the application details.

Ms Comery-Vivian said the project would hopefully allow her to retain her independence for as long as possible and would be fit for wheelchair use.

Pictures displayed during the meeting showed the building has already been converted and the site is in a complete state of redevelopment.

Helen Foster, an objecting resident, said during the meeting that the project would not be “sympathetic” to the surrounding conservation area.

She said it represented “serious cramming in” and “overdevelopment”, on a site which had previously seen flooding, contrary to evidence from the Environment Agency.

Another objector also said the applicant was not yet living on the site yet, so could have bought a bungalow elsewhere in the village instead of buying one of those instead of applying for the development in question.

Council planners also said the personal situation of the applicant was not a relevant factor because they were not an existing resident of the site.

Cllr Tim Scott said that his mother, who sadly passed away, had MS and he would be “sad to see her live in a place like this”, with insufficient space.

Cllr Miller commented that the developer was “doing a very nice job” of the site, but said the scheme was “the tip of the iceberg”.

This comes after councillors rejected plans to convert a stable into a home at Maywood Farm off Rushy Lane between Sandiacre and Risley in November.