The North East Derbyshire District Council Local Plan 2014-2034 was formally adopted at a meeting of full council on Monday, November 29, despite numerous concerns being raised that it still includes housing allocation sites on Green Belt land in Killamarsh and Dronfield.
Addressing full council, Deputy Leader Councillor Charlotte Cupit said: “I have to be really honest that whatever happens today, we can’t completely fix this.”
She explained that when the current Conservative administration took over control of the authority from Labour in 2019, they inherited a plan that was ‘a decade in the making’.
“We’ve had a perfect storm of thousands of houses approved, most notably in the south, but also actually across the district by speculative development and a lack of infrastructure planning associated with this,” Coun Cupit said.
In August 2019 after discussion with the council, the Planning Inspectorate put three options forward – withdraw the entire plan, conduct a review of site allocations or continue with it as it was.
Coun Cupit said that after seeking legal advice the council concluded that any attempt to alter the plan would ultimately lead to it being withdrawn and this would lead to ‘resetting the clock’.
She explained: “That means the speculative development and allocations that have been build out over the last seven years would no longer count towards our targets with the result that we would have to find sites for an additional 2,000 houses for a new plan period, all while losing greenfields and Green Belt.”
She claimed it was for that reason that authority chose to proceed with the housing allocations as they were.
Defending the former Labour administration’s position, Councillor Nigel Barker commented: “I’d like to make is crystal clear that the last administration followed government advice in drawing up this Local Plan.
“We followed the advice of our excellent planning team and even external consultants when we put the plan together.
“I’ll accept that the process did take a long time, but there were valid reasons for this, mostly around the extensive consultation that had to be done and the time period that that took up.”
He added: “We were told very clearly and on several occasions at the cross party Local Plan steering group that submitting a local plan without undertaking a Green Belt review would not have been a realistic option.”
Councillor Ross Shipman referred to the draft Local Plan as a ‘trap’, adding : “You’ve misled residents and you have no other choice now but to accept this Local Plan because you’ve been messing around for two and a half years.
“In all of that time you could have looked at amending the Local Plan.”
Councillor David Hancock commented: “We can oppose were we have strong rights to do so and this council has had almost three years to set the ball rolling on an alternative Local Plan.
“We could have restarted the clock, we could have gone and we would be a hell of a long way down the road right now.”
Councillor Suzy Cornwell outlined in her ward of Holmewood there have been five developments in recent years totalling 1,100 houses.
“We’re no longer Holmewood, we’re practically connected to Clay Cross, North Wingfield and Temple Normington and we could actually be renamed Clay North Woodton,” she commented.
Coun Cornwell said she had ‘absolutely no choice’ but to vote for the plan as it was.
“That way we can save whatever land is left in Holmewood and give our officers the chance to stop any new development,” she concluded.
There were 22 votes for the adoption of the Local Plan, 16 against and seven abstentions.
The news will come as a blow to campaigners who have been fighting to save green belt areas, in Dronfield and Killamarsh, which remain allocated for future housing.
Killamarsh group Residents Against Greenbelt Erosion (RAGE) had set up a petition calling for Westthorpe site, one of Killamarsh’s last remaining areas of green fields, to be removed from the plan.
A planning inspector argued that housing on the Westthorpe site would appear “in conjunction” with the business centre.