In this piece, I want to celebrate Bullsmoor and share what I have discovered and will yet discover.
I would also like to invite local people to share stories, memories and experiences so that Bullsmoor doesn’t get forgotten. On Friday a member of Protect Belper passed by my house as I was about to take my dog Charlie out for a walk.
She told me that she’d just been to Pauline Latham’s ‘meet your MP’ meeting and that the planning application AVA/2017/1040 for the Vaillant factory extension had been ‘called in’ by the Secretary of State.
I was glad to hear this, especially as the photo and letter I’d sent to him had asked for this to happen.
I wanted to feel that things were heading in the right direction but wondered what ‘called in’ really meant. I’ve used the phrase myself but realised I didn’t know what the implications of this would be.
I knew there was another application (AVA/2016/0754) for housing that had not been given planning permission by Amber Valley Borough Council, but that the companies involved were appealing against this. I wasn’t sure how it all connected together, and realised that other people I spoke to weren’t sure either.
This made me notice how hard it can be to get involved in fighting planning applications.
The language is full of abbreviations and legal speak and can be impenetrable. When I first got involved I heard people talk about ‘World Heritage Buffer Zones’ and had to look it up on the internet to find out what a ‘buffer zone’ was, and then I still wasn’t quite sure. I also hear of people giving up fighting as it all seems too complicated, relentless and a bit like building sandcastle walls against the tide.
I find it frustrating how there is meant to be a way for local people to comment on planning applications but how a lot of the heartfelt words that people write get dismissed. The only argument for saving Bullsmoor seems to be that building on it would ruin a ‘National Asset’ due to the effect on the setting of the World Heritage Site, and this would only count if it outweighs the perceived need for jobs and houses.
The personal and important comments about wildlife, space, sense of place, dog walking, traffic problems and so on, that impact on people’s lives, seem to hold little value.
‘Calling-in’ a planning application is when the Secretary of State takes the decision-making power about a particular planning application out of the hands of the local planning authority (which for us is Amber Valley Borough Council).
Looking at this in more detail cheered me up as I realised that only five or six planning applications get called in each year.
So, thank you again to all those people who turned up on a wet Sunday to have their photo taken. Maybe it did help a bit after all.