By David George
The controversy over Amber Valley’s inclusion of green fields in Belper in their revised housing land allocation prompts several questions:
• What future do we want for Belper?
• Why is the development of our town being decided by people who have no connection with Belper?
• Is the current planning process fit for purpose? These questions are all connected.
As a town we have embarked on the process of drawing up a Neighbourhood Plan that should provide a blueprint that most of us would be happy to sign up to.
In preparing this we have to take into account current strategies and plans – so even when deciding what we want we are constrained by what councillors for Heanor, Ripley, Alfreton etc have decided. Part of the core strategy allocation of land for housing in Amber Valley is because Derby have put up the shutters and declared themselves full.
They are able to do this because it has been decreed that local authorities must work in ‘housing market areas’ and should co-operate. The Derby Housing Market Area comprises Amber Valley, Derby and South Derbyshire.
Is there an assumption that we’d be as happy living in Swadlincote as Belper or that we work in Derby?
Is it right that we should be seen simply as commuter belt accommodation?
The planners also suffer from an enforced lack of imagination, I feel.
It seems they look at the easiest options and are unable to take an idea and then try to make it happen.
Whatever happened to plans to redevelop the Market Place to include shops, a library and new apartments? How many apartments could you fit into the East Mill? Housing solutions are out there but they are not necessarily easy.
The same applies in ‘full up’ Derby.
The need to cut carbon emissions and dwindling, ever more expensive fossil fuel energy supplies will mean an increasing need to balance jobs and homes in towns and villages.
Belper has seen a disproportionate population increase since 1991 whilst losing jobs hand over fist.
A local, low-carbon economy needs to see more firms and jobs – as well as appropriate homes – to start to reverse the commuter belt designation that we have been lumbered with by our planners across the housing market area.
If this is what we want we should fight tooth and nail for the right to be able to plan our town without the overbearing diktats of ever more irrelevant Derby HMA. A Belper Housing Market Area that includes our surrounding villages would have our town as its heart and we could plan jobs, homes, retail and leisure in balance.
At Belper Goes Green earlier in the year more than 80 people added to a piece of community art called InVoice.
It is quite clear that Belper people love Belper, its community and its green open spaces.
You can view this emotional expression of what we feel about Belper at www.transitionbelper.org