A councillor has compared Amber Valley’s ruling Labour Party to the hamster from A Secret Life of Pets 2 who runs on its wheel and is angered at not having gone anywhere.
The comment came from Coun Kevin Buttery, opposition leader for the Conservatives on Amber Valley Borough Council, during a debate on the authority’s local plan this week.
Coun Buttery said: “When I look at this (the paper laying out when the local plan will be ready) I can’t help but think of the animal character in the Sky TV advert that you see all the time, where it is running on its wheel and gets off and hasn’t gone anywhere.”
The clip Coun Buttery referred to is from a film called The Secret Life of Pets 2, in which a hamster runs on a wheel in its cage and says: “I run and I run and I run and I get out and I’ve gone nowhere, nowhere!”
In May, Labour took back control of Amber Valley Borough Council – campaigning with the pledge that it would scrap the Conservatives’ draft local plan – a blueprint for future housing and business development – due to the inclusion of protected green belt land.
The draft plan had been the best part of a decade in the making and Labour has this month published its forecast for when the new plan will be ready – March 2023.
A new draft will be ready to present to the council by March 2021 with a submission-ready version ready to be sent to the Government for examination by April 2022.
Conservative councillor Gareth Gee said at this week’s full council meeting: “This timetable shows at least three years wasted and three extra years of expense.
“The plan we had focused development around the places where most people in the borough live, Alfreton, Ripley, Heanor and Belper – but you discarded that plan.
“We would have put houses in the places where the people are and where there is already transport links and infrastructure, we wanted to do that from the outset in 2012.
“Now we will be left with Labour’s rash and reckless plan.
“Coun Ben Bellamy (deputy leader of the council) is looking to new land in the west, just like Christopher Columbus (who sailed west to find the Americas).
“It is our responsibility to come up with a plan for housing so our sons and daughters will have somewhere to live.
“We have a duty to have a housing policy and to the children in this borough who would like to stay here but need somewhere to live.”
Coun Paul Smith, Labour, said: “It wasn’t us that ripped up your local plan, it was the communities of Amber Valley.
“We do need to build houses but we also need clean open spaces and clean air.
“The community of Amber Valley did not support what you were proposing. You made a mess of it and we are going to sort it out and the community will understand the wait.”
Coun Tony Holmes, Labour, said: “You were going to destroy swathes and swathes of green belt.”
Coun Mick Wilson, Labour, who is chairman of the council’s planning board, said: “Yes you had a draft plan, but the reason you are all now over there and we are over here (on the ruling party side of the council chamber) is because your plan had too much green belt in it.”
Coun Bellamy said: “It is interesting the number of brownfield sites that are now coming forward since we scrapped the local plan and that developers are not coming around and planning houses anywhere they want.
“It is important that we build houses for our children and not on green belt.”
The council has previously said that the cost of scrapping the authority’s previous draft plan and drawing up a new one would be £1.4 million over five years.
It had spent £785,000 since 2016 on the now-scrapped draft local plan.
A new role was agreed to be created this month for a planning policy officer – at a cost over a fixed four year period of £129,000 – to oversee the authority’s work to piece a fresh blueprint together.
The council has also now said that existing staffing costs, outside of the new role, stand at £168,000 with external costs of £300,000 for local plan preparations.
Amber Valley’s current local plan lapsed in 2011.
Because it does not have a new one, Conservative councillors have suggested that developers will see the borough as open season for prospective applications – with the council unable to direct them to approved sites or have strong reasons for rejection.
They have said that having no plan would be like pouring a “cauldron of chaos” on the borough.