In December 2015 Amber Valley Borough Council withdrew its local plan for housing development in the area to meet Government housing targets.
Council chiefs expressed disappointment at the time that after many years and considerable debate about potential housing development sites it could no longer be confident developers would deliver the previously predicted number of houses within the following five years on the sites proposed.
Amber Valley Borough Council has now published details of sites for inclusion in a new draft local plan, which will go to public consultation later this month with a view to having an up-to-date local plan in place by March 2018.
The council has to provide enough land for development to accommodate 9,770 homes by 2028 and a five-year housing supply of 3,065 between now and 2022.
Council leader Kevin Buttery told a full council meeting and vote on the new sites put forward for development on March 1 that the purpose of the vote was to start a consultation process.
He said: “Ultimately, if we do not have a local plan developers will find it easier to get planning permission for plans that might not otherwise have been approved, leaving Belper and the rest of Amber Valley exposed. That, in my view, would be the worse outcome of all.”
Sites put forward to be included in the draft local plan are as follows:
- Belper Lane, Belper 120
- Bullsmoor, Kilbourne Road, Belper 150
- The Common, Crich 80
- Derby Road, Duffield 38
- Land north of Denby 1,100
A fair proportion of the above sites are classed as countryside sites and World Heritage Sites while some lie within areas of multiple environmental sensitivity.
Amber Valley’s local plan policies state that building on countryside and greenbelt will only be allowed where special circumstances are demonstrated, such as a lack of affordable housing in the area.
Councillor Chris Emmas-Williams, member for Codnor and Waingroves, said the council’s failure to go ahead with sites already in the local plan two years ago had resulted in the borough being left at the mercy of developers submitting speculative plans.
He added: “Because we do not have a five-year supply of housing the developers are able to appeal when their plans are rejected.
“I have always been against any development on greenbelt and countryside but the Government inspector has gone to great pains to make it clear what the special circumstances to build on them are.
“It’s fine wanting to leave them out of the plan but you have to come up with something else.”
Two sites which have attracted particular controversy are Belper’s Belper Lane and Bullsmoor.
The Belper Lane site, a greenfield area bordering the northeast of the town and earmarked for 120 houses is subject of a strong opposition campaign by local residents.
One of the residents, Kerry Asher, said: “The key issue here seems to be that the council does not have a local plan - they feel they have to support the inclusions because local people will have no say otherwise and development will be imposed from central government.
“At the council meeting where the plan was discussed there was lots of talking but no real outcome - it’s just gone to consultation but we have been here before and there is no real progress.
“There are so many brownfield sites not used but they have chosen not to use them.”
The Belper Lane site lies within a buffer zone - an area which serves as an extra layer of protection for a World Heritage site - in this case the Derwent Valley.
Kerry added: “The fields in this area are used extensively by the public and their loss would have a significant impact on many people. This is the main area for walking and the loss of this would be a detriment to the whole community.
“The traffic flow on Belper lane is very difficult as it stands now and Belper Triangle is also unsustainable and cannot cope with any more traffic.
“Local schools and doctors surgeries are at maximum capacity and cannot cope and the sewerage system struggles as it is and has to be regularly pumped out.”
But frustration over the inclusion of the Bullsmoor site - just south of the town centre and part of the Derwent Valley Mills World Heritage Site - has reached breaking point.
Sue MacFarlane, Amber Valley Green Party candidate for Belper South and Duffield, said: “I do not understand why Bullsmoor is in the plan. The Conservative councillors say they want to include it in the draft plan so people can have their say but we have already had our say.
“It was objected to in the last plan and now we have to do it again - it’s very frustrating.
“There is so much brownfield land available in Amber Valley but they only put forward land which they know developers will take up and the Government makes it easier for developers to develop greenfield land.”
Council leader Kevin Buttery said the sites proposed had not yet been through detailed planning examinations and that the conclusions drawn by those examinations would have an impact on the suitability of the sites.
Amber Valley Borough Council’s draft local plan will be available for public consultation later this month.