North Derbyshire Liberal Democrats have today submitted their response to North East Derbyshire District Council’s final draft of their Local Plan, due to be submitted to the Secretary of State for CLG for independent examination during May 2018. Our unredacted response is given below:
To quote the government’s own guidance:
- Local Plans are the key to delivering sustainable development that reflects the vision and aspirations of local communities .
- Local Plans must be prepared with the objective of contributing to the achievement of sustainable development .
- Local planning authorities should seek opportunities to achieve each of the economic, social and environmental dimensions of sustainable development, and net gains across all three. Significant adverse impacts on any of these dimensions should be avoided .
- Each local planning authority should ensure that the Local Plan is based on adequate, up-to-date and relevant evidence about the economic, social and environmental characteristics and prospects of the area .
The Liberal Democrats believe that North East Derbyshire District Council [NEDDC] has failed in each of the above criteria to present a sustainable local plan.
Since the first draft of the current local plan was launched, aspiring to build 6,621 new homes, speculative planning has already seen the construction of 975 new homes and secured consent for a further 3,882 homes across North East Derbyshire.
We believe that this allocation should be counted within the final draft of the plan, thereby reducing the number of additional homes required to just 1,764.
The Liberal Democrats are concerned by NEDDC’s identification of “Level 2: Settlements with Good Sustainability” which they have targeted to accommodate the majority of non-strategic housing development.
Our own research identifies that the following “Level 2” settlements have already reached the point where they should be considered as unsustainable and where further development should not be considered owing to already inadequate amenities and infrastructure:
- Morton: local amenities are few, and while the settlement is close to Alfreton, public transport is poor.
- Tupton: despite being one of the larger villages, Tupton has no high street provision and only a part time GP surgery, with no capacity to increase amenities.
- Wingerworth: has a reasonable number of existing amenities; however, existing cumulative planning commitments will take this to a point beyond sustainability.
It is a major weakness across the District, from the perspective of infrastructure, security and transport, that the overwhelming majority of the current population is focussed around the A61 corridor. Continued development along this route would be negligent to the long-term sustainability of the District.
Accessibility to healthcare is a major concern in most areas within the District; another reason why the Liberal Democrats favour building away from existing settlements. Almost all areas in the District report problems accessing their local GP and many residents are registered with Practices outside of their own village. This increases pressures in the NHS, with GPs having to travel further afield to make home visits and creates difficulties for vulnerable and ill residents.
We believe that NEDDC should look toward alternative sites to those suggested in the local plan.
The local plan rejects the idea of building in the countryside and the Liberal Democrats are also of the opinion that Green Belt and, just as importantly for the long-term well-being of communities, Green Field sites should only be considered as options of last resort. However, the pressures already placed on the A61, the erosion of the settlement boundaries between Wingerworth, Tupton, Grassmoor, Clay Cross, Stretton, Mickley, Higham and Shirland in the south of the District and the lack of adequate existing infrastructure available in all of these residential areas means that further development would be better focused along the A632 and towards the border with Bolsover District Council, within easy access of the M1.
The Liberal Democrats are also concerned by the apparent lack of consideration given to providing sustainable, well-paid, employment in the District. The majority of employment provision within North East Derbyshire is typically low paid, with most residents commuting to neighbouring local authority areas: Chesterfield, Amber Valley and Derbyshire Dales; and nearby cities such as Sheffield, Leeds, Derby and Nottingham. This is damaging to our local economy and has a negative impact on the lives of residents.
Beyond the strategic site at Biwater, we believe that all further proposed development in Clay Cross be focussed on business and job creation. This should help to address those wards in the District which are most impacted by unemployment – Grassmoor, Holmewood and Heath, and Clay Cross South; all of which are within easy commuting distance of Clay Cross; and all of which have public transport routes which would avoid additional pressure on the A61.