Cheese factory plans turned down

Proposals to redevelop a former cheese factory site at Hartington have been unanimously turned down by the Peak District National Park planning committee.

The scheme from developers Cathelco of Chesterfield included 39 houses - 33 three-to-five-bedroomed houses for the open market and six affordable homes - plus business units, a recreation area including sports pitch and children’s playground, allotments and a car park.

The committee heard from 24 speakers, 22 of them objecting to the scheme. After hearing all the representations and discussing the evidence members refused it on the grounds that its scale would be out of keeping with the village and damaging to the landscape and character of Hartington.

Chair of the planning committee John Herbert said he was pleased that so many from the local community had taken the time and trouble to come and speak at the hearing.

“I would like to congratulate all the speakers for the way they represented their views and for their discipline in what could have been a heated and passionate debate,” he said. “We had to hold the committee at the Medway Centre because of the great number of people who wanted to speak or hear what we decided. It is good for everyone to be able to see for themselves how we approach our decisions with transparency and with open minds and I welcome such engagement.

“We have listened to the people of Hartington and the developer and after careful consideration we agreed that a redevelopment on this scale would be disproportionate, out of keeping with the character of this area and threatening to the social balance of the village.

“However, I was also glad to hear residents’ general acceptance that this unsightly former industrial site needs to be removed, and that a smaller, more gradual redevelopment in character with the village would be preferable.”

The Hartington Liaison Group of local people, councillors and officers, set up to ensure local involvement, had carried out a village survey which revealed a large majority of residents opposed the scheme but would support up to 20 houses with community facilities. An exhibition and public meetings were also held.

Some 123 residents had written to the Authority to oppose the proposal – many said it would expand the village, which currently has 130 houses, by 30 per cent. Traffic issues, encroachment on greenfield land and inadequate affordable housing were also cited. One resident wrote to support it. In addition 76 people from outside the village had also written to object.

Hartington Parish Council objected to it, as did the Friends of the Peak District, both on grounds of scale.

The refusal went contrary to the planning officers’ recommendations, which advised that removal of the old factory buildings and their replacement with homes, gardens and community facilities would benefit the national park. They also advised that Hartington’s public services could sustain this level of new residents.

Hartington cheese factory was opened in 1876 and at its height employed 200 people, though most came from outside the village. It was shut down in 2009 after owners Dairy Crest sold it to rivals Long Clawson, which then moved its cheese production to an urban site outside the national park.