COLUMN: Timing of major housing plan for town is shocking

Pauline Latham visits hospital patients
Pauline Latham visits hospital patients
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By Pauline Latham

MP for Mid-Derbyshire

Planning and development have been hot topics in Belper over the last few months.

Earlier this year, I had talks with Tesco over the disposal of the land they owned at Meadow’s Edge. That has gone to the council’s planning committee to make a decision. The most recent of these concerns, however, is the core strategy published by Amber Valley Borough Council, which identifies Bullsmoor, Cherry House Farm and Pottery Farm as areas available for development. Prior to taking control of the borough council this May, the Labour group objected to any development on Greenbelt land. It is strange that the sites they are now proposed for development are green field. The reasoning behind this could be that suggesting the use of green field sites would be cheaper for the council because neither they nor the potential developer would have to spend money decontaminating contaminated land. It is also of concern that the Labour group has singled out Belper to meet Derby Housing Market Area’s needs, taking the weight off the traditionally Labour areas of Ripley, Heanor and Alfreton. A huge number of houses have been built over the last decade in Belper compared with these other areas. I am shocked that such a major, contentious report has been published at a time of the year when many are unable to respond because they are away on family holidays. Locally, there are many concerns about building on the two sites, one of them being the increased risk of flooding that it would cause. Since the expansion of John O’Gaunt’s Way, flooding of the Coppice Brook has become more of a problem, as surface water has nowhere to go. The proposed development sites behind Kilbourne Road would exacerbate this. Even if the council dug additional drainage systems, they would be unlikely to cope because the hillside around Pottery, Bullsmoor and Cherry House farms is full of natural springs. The key problem with the sites proposed is that there isn’t the local infrastructure to support major development. I attended the public meeting that took place at Strutts School about the core strategy. There, the head teacher of Pottery Primary School raised her concerns about how her already overstretched school would cope with more pupils, and questioned whether the other local schools would have places available. Doctors surgeries in the area are at or near capacity which would mean existing patients could have a reduced service from their GPs. The road system is ill-equipped to deal with the traffic volume that further development would generate. The A6 is struggling with the current volume of traffic, and the much-needed relief road does not look as though it will be built, as the land it would go on is on Derwent Street which has also been earmarked for residential development. I am completely opposed to Amber Valley Council’s (AVBC) core strategy in its current state, which is a position I know is shared by the majority of people in Belper. I will do whatever it takes to ensure the opinions of local people are heard, and have offered to forward residents’ objections to AVBC and to the Inspector. The core strategy connsultation closes on September 8.