Campaigners are angry after a report commissioned by Belper-based Peveril Homes said a planned new development should go ahead despite its impact on the Derwent Valley Mills world heritage site.
The report - which has been produced by planning consultants CgMs - argues that the town is ‘less significant’ than other parts of the world heritage site and that its ‘special character’ has already been ‘eroded’ by 20th century development.
However, rather than calling for more work to be done to protect it, the report says these ‘facts’ mean that a planned development on the Bullsmoor green fields behind the Vaillant factory should go ahead.
Campaigner Jon Baldwin, who lives on Kilbourne Road, said: “Bullsmoor is one of the last bits of pre-industrial land on this side of Belper.
“It is the reason why the world heritage site buffer zone was extended as far as Sandbed Lane - to protect it.
“If they were to build the 150 homes, Bullsmoor would be incrementally eroded and the whole concept of the buffer zone in the area would be in question.”
Jon and fellow campaigner, Robert Large, have already delivered 5,000 leaflets to houses in the area and will host a public meeting on the plan at the Strutt Centre on August 18.
The development - which is being considered alongside an application to extend the firm’s Nottingham Road factory - will be decided upon by Amber Valley Borough Council in October this year.
Robert, who also lives on Kilbourne Road, said: “Bullsmoor has survived for 700 years and I am confident it can survive this as well.
“It really does add to the setting of the world heritage site - it adds to the story of Belper and the history of the industrial revolution.
“But it is not just an academic argument, it is a very real place that people use with footpaths, crossings and bridle paths - it is an important place within the community.”
Jon and Robert think the report tries to attack the town’s value to the world heritage site because the applicants believe that is the best way of persuading the planning committee to give the plan the go-ahead.
But the campaigners hope that recent cases which suggest that planning officers regard the overall ‘setting’ of the world heritage site as important will mean they will not be swayed by such tactics.
“The people we have been delivering leaflets to say they remember when the whole area - Whitemoor as well as Bullsmoor - was all fields, but Whitemoor has been extensively developed during the latter part of the twentieth century,” says Robert.
“Bullsmoor, however, is still intact and impressive and provides a tantalising glimpse of what is to come further down the valley.”
While the campaigners believe that world heritage is their ‘trump card’, other residents in the area are equally angry about the impact the development could have on services in the area.
Bryan Meakin, who lives with his wife Lynne on Kilbourne Road, said: “This development will have a massive impact on the infrastructure of the area.
“The schools are already full, the doctors surgeries are overloaded and the drainage system and the roads will not cope with it.
“This is a very busy road and wherever they make access it is going to be an absolute nuisance. We have already got big lorries up and down this road which it was never designed for.”
The campaigners believe that Belper’s desirability for both homebuyers and developers has meant that the town has taken ‘more than enough’ development over the last 25 years.
They say that there is a constant stream of planning applications on the green fields of Belper because landowners and housebuilders can make a fortune - as long as they secure permission.
Jon said: “There is actually a lot of brown field land in Belper, but the developers aren’t as keen because there is less money in it.
“With the green field they scrape the top soil off and then put some concrete in and you’re building houses straight away.”
Another issue which worries the campaigners is the development’s impact on flooding in the area.
“The Environment Agency says Belper is already a high risk area and the development is only going to release a lot more water into the Coppice Brook which I don’t think it can cope with,” says Robert.
“Network Rail have said that if there was any more volume of water they would have to increase the size of the pipe which takes the brook under the tracks.
“This waterway hasn’t got unlimited capacity so I believe strongly that the impact of the development on it should be properly assessed.”
Peveril Homes were asked to respond to this piece but declined the opportunity.