Row erupts over plans which could see more than a dozen Derbyshire sites earmarked for hundreds of homes
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At an Amber Valley Borough Council meeting, plans to include 15 new sites in the authority’s upcoming blueprint for future housing schemes were discussed.
One of the potential sites would see a vast area of land between Radbourne Lane in Mackworth, Derby, and Brun Lane towards Kirk Langley earmarked for 1,200 homes.
This would primarily represent a bid to help Derby City Council meet its own housing targets over the next couple of decades with the metropolitan authority struggling to find enough space within its boundaries for new homes.
One of the 15 proposed new sites, which will now all go out to public consultation, has already been withdrawn by the developer within a week of it being shared by the council.
This is the plan for 75 homes off Chesterfield Road in Heage, west of Belper, which would have seen half of an industrial estate turned into housing.
At last night’s meeting, Labour called the blueprint from the Conservative administration an “absolute disgrace” and “disastrous” for the borough’s towns and villages.
Meanwhile, the Conservatives said the sites had been selected based on an assessments of scores of plots submitted following a call for development areas made by the previous Labour administration. The Tories said Labour should submit areas which would be appropriate for development and said that the proposal to help Derby with its housing need had also been agreed under Labour control.
Cllr Ben Bellamy, deputy leader of the opposition Labour Group, said: “There is so much wrong with this Local Plan that it is difficult to know where to start.
“The only part of the plan that accords with the consultation response is the site at Mackworth.
“Belper, Ripley, Duffield and the surrounding areas are all at risk of future development.
“You are also looking to build on one of the most contaminated sites in the county in Somercotes, it is an absolute disgrace.
“I wouldn’t want anyone to live there, I wouldn’t want my best enemy to live there, I wouldn’t want any of you (the Conservative Party members) over there to live there.”
At this point, Cllr Kevin Buttery, Conservative leader of the authority, asked Cllr Bellamy to apologise, which he agreed to, saying: “I apologise if you think you are the enemy.”
Cllr Bellamy said the authority had “bowed down to Derby immediately”.
Cllr Lorna Tassi, Conservative, claimed that Cllr Chris Emmas-Williams, Labour Group leader, had already done so while leader of the authority.
Cllr Alison McDermott, Green Party, said: “I have every sympathy for our planning officers in a system dependent on housing developers and planning policies.
“I’ll talk in words you (the Conservative Party) might understand, we need to build back better.
“We need a plan led by the council and not by developers. I know developers spend a large amount of money on specialists to fight local plans and work to create sites which will generate the most amount of profit.”
Cllr Buttery told the meeting that the proposed site and wider Local Plan would not rely on any Green Belt sites or areas in the Derwent Valley Mills World Heritage Site or its buffer zone, or any sites of special scientific interest.
He said more than a quarter of all the proposed housing already had planning permission.
Cllr Buttery said the authority had alread received requests from Erewash and Ashfield for help taking on their housing targets.
He said: “We expect in due course to receive the same request from Derby, and that is all we can do, consider them.”
Cllr Buttery said the plan would allow the council to “be more confident about resisting housing developments that are not considered sustainable”.
He said Government targets for housing can only be seen as the starting point and that it was safer to plan for more homes, particularly if some developments do not come forward.
This is why the council, instead of planning for 376 homes a year totalling 6,392 homes by 2039, it is currently set to plan for up to 7,955 homes.
Borough council officials write that Derby is to have a 35 per cent “uplift” to its housing targets – given to it by central Government – and it is “anticipated” that neighbouring authorities will once again be expected to help share its homes requirements.
The city council has previously said it would need to lean on Amber Valley and South Derbyshire for help with its housing need “until such a time as the city boundary is expanded”.
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Cllr John McCabe, Labour, said: “In Somercotes you are looking to build all around it, on contaminated land, you want to build 75 more houses on Birchwood Lane which is contaminated land.
“Across the road, you want to build on a wildlife corridor up to Pennytown Ponds, and to build an industrial zone right up to to houses. It is a shambles.
“To quote Laurel and Hardy, it is a fine mess you have gotten us into.”
Steve Marshall-Clarke, Labour, said much more action needed to be taken within the Local Plan on tackling or restricting the number of houses in multiple occupation (HMOs/bedsits).
He claimed the HMOs he is aware of in Alfreton were linked to “drug taking, alcohol abuse, a cannabis factory, illegal behaviour, and that is just the ones I am aware of, and I am sure there is more”.
Cllr Marshall-Clarke said: “Allowing these HMOs to be built or to be adapted is causing a lot of nightmare and chaos in our town.”
Cllr Gareth Gee, Conservative, said that the people most in need of new housing are young people but that they are also the least likely to take part in consultation on the issue.
He said: “We need to make sure our sons and daughters have got somewhere to live near their parents, if they want to stay nearby.
“I do lose sleep over whether they are going to be able to get a house, if they want one.
“I do support the aspiration to not build on Green Belt, but we need to ensure we provide housing for the people of Amber Valley.”