Derbyshire council moves to improve transparency on planning and biodiversity policies

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The new administration at Derbyshire Dales District Council has revived an official committee which will make elected councillors more publicly accountable for future development planning, and created a new body to lead on biodiversity issues.

At an extraordinary meeting of the community and environment committee, members voted to re-establish the Local Plan sub-committee, which previously existed as the Local Plan Advisory Committee during the creation stages of the district’s 15-year development masterplan.

Following a process which attracted significant opposition around proposed development sites, the plan was formally adopted in 2017 – at which point responsibility for related matters passed to a working group, and so became less open to direct public scrutiny.

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The Local Plan is currently undergoing a statutory review, and with political leadership passing from the Conservative party to a new ‘rainbow coalition’ following last month’s elections, the council is seeking ways to give communities more influence over decision-making.

Matlock Town Hall, headquarters of Derbyshire Dales District CouncilMatlock Town Hall, headquarters of Derbyshire Dales District Council
Matlock Town Hall, headquarters of Derbyshire Dales District Council

Liberal Democrat Councillor Martin Burfoot, who chairs the community and environment committee, said: “Many decisions need to be made before a revised Local Plan can be approved by the new council, following extensive and meaningful public consultation.

“New houses must be more energy efficient and affordable and meet local needs, in the right locations and include provision of the required infrastructure. The plan also needs to insist on a minimum ten per cent biodiversity net gain on development sites, in line with the latest Government legislation.”

The Local Plan sub-committee will have ten members, representing each party in proportion to the political balance of the whole council.

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The independent Councillor Peter O’Brien, who will sit on the sub-committee, said: “A fresh approach to the review of our Local Plan is central to the philosophy of the progressive alliance.

“We believe that communities themselves should be at the centre of the plan-making process, and where our Local Plan involves change we want our communities to shape that change and to own that change.”

He added: “It will sharpen the focus of debate, engage more members – and we will welcome the contribution from our colleagues from the opposition – and with regular reports to this committee.

“And of course the sub-committee will ensure that debates on the future of our communities are carried out and held in the public arena – again central to the philosophy of the new administration.”

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Members, who voted unanimously for the new sub-committee, also spoke about seeking to build more constructive relationships with the Peak District National Park Authority, which holds planning powers over most of the western side of the district.

Steve Wain, another Liberal Democrat, told the meeting: “We've got an opportunity now to look at the existing Local Plan and build on it. There have been a lot of changes such as the Environment Act, and we’ve declared a climate emergency – there are so many things.

“Openness and transparency, consultation with members of the public and taking the public with us will make us stronger as an organisation and stronger as a group.”

Reflecting those parallel concerns about the environmental impact of future development, councillors in the meeting also voted to create a six-member biodiversity sub-committee, again replacing and expanding on the remit of an existing working group.

For full details of sub-committee memberships and responsibilities, go to