It is with some reluctance that I respond to John Evan’s letter in last week’s Mercury. Unlike John, I don’t go in for personal attacks of the kind he made on me in reference to my motives for voting the way I did. However, I do need to clarify some of the remarks he says I made at the planning meeting as well as include some factual information for the benefit of your readers.
First, I’d like to apologise to any residents at the meeting if I appeared to be “lecturing them on how shameful it was to oppose affordable housing,” as John claimed I did. It is true I was absolutely livid with the one local resident who wrote and I quote, “mixing less privileged people with people from a more affluent area doesn’t mix and will more than likely have implications.” I’ll leave your readers to make a judgment on that statement but it certainly made me extremely angry and I’m afraid perhaps I let it show.
John claims there’s a need for a development “to cater for the over 65s, ie. small bungalows” and “this is the largest group in need of affordable housing.” This second statement is completely wrong. The “four and five people houses” he mentions which “would be freed up” are mostly privately owned by people who maybe do need to down size to a smaller dwelling but who aren’t in need of “affordable housing” funded by the taxpayer. The real affordable housing need in Darley Dale is in fact for family homes. People on modest incomes, who can’t afford to buy, need suitable rented housing. These are actual facts taken from the report from housing officers (not the planners) following a recent housing needs survey in Darley Dale. Housing need in Darley Dale in fact is greater than it is in Bakewell and to purchase a modest terraced house here requires an annual income of plus thirty thousand pounds. John Evans quotes me as saying, “I don’t represent Darley Dale.” This statement was taken completely out of context and resulted from my unguarded response to someone making representations who claimed to be speaking on behalf of all the people of Darley Dale. On reflection I should have been more specific by saying that, although I’m an elected councillor, I never claim to speak on behalf of all the people of Darley Dale when dealing with a planning application.
In the end, my decision to vote against the application was based entirely on planning grounds and not to cull favour with anyone. I believe the high density of the proposed development is in stark contrast to the low density of the existing surrounding housing which, as the planning officer pointed out, is an important element of the immediate area. Secondly the conversion of the present infant school building, into self-contained dwellings, will mean turning its playground into a large car park for all the residents of the entire development. In my view this will completely erode the setting of this grade 2 listed building by destroying its open nature, an essential element of this fine George Widdows designed building.
At the end of the meeting a majority of the committee voted in favour of the planning application and time will tell whether that was the right decision. I’ll let others make that judgement.