Anger as Amber Valley homes plan gets green light - despite contamination fears

Land to the rear of Birchwood Lane, Somercotes.
Land to the rear of Birchwood Lane, Somercotes.

Cries of “shame on you” rang around Ripley Town Hall as permission was granted to build 200 houses near Somercotes close to a former landfill site.

Residents in Somercotes have been campaigning to highlight concerns over contamination in the area for 40 years.

They believe that nobody really knows what may have leaked into the ground off Birchwood Lane, near Nether Farm, and what potential harm could be caused to residents in the area.

When the application, put forward by Bernard Swain, returned to the planning board at Amber Valley Borough Council last night, councillors were stuck in a deadlock at six votes against and six votes for the development.

It was committee chairman councillor Norman Bull who had the casting vote, approving the application, much to the displeasure of members of the public in the audience and opposing councillors.

The application was recommended for approval by council officers due to the borough not being able to demonstrate that it has a five-year housing supply – despite the area’s Local Plan, a blueprint for future development, being in its final stages.

Resident Troy Smith said that the proposal presented a “clear and present danger to all living near to the site” and that it is “widely known to be contaminated”.

The site sits around 90 metres from a historic landfill and residents and several borough councillors state that, although housing may one day be built on the land, significant scientific tests and remediation work ought to be carried out first.

Councillor Paul Smith said: “This development is not suitable and I was hoping tonight that we get the same result as England and that we get a win.

“Birchwood Lane is already over capacity and county council highways has stressed its concerns over safety and traffic at the junction for the site.”

Meanwhile, councillor Chris Emmas-Williams warned that development on a site with mine shafts could lead to an explosive disaster.

An agent for the applicant stated: “Hats off to the residents for wanting to make sure that the application is sufficiently examined and those who even asked Public Health England to look over the proposals.”

Despite this, she said that the site could be made usable and remediation would take place to ensure this.

Prior to the vote on the application, it came to light that eight councillors had been lobbied by the developer and objecting residents before the debate – which should of, and was not, declared before discussions began.

Councillors received a stern warning from principal solicitor Venice McDonald as a result.

The democratic services officer stated that councillors would be allowed to vote despite of these breaches “as long as you all keep an open mind despite the lobbying”.

Eddie Bisknell , Local Democracy Reporting Service