Neighbours unite as protected land back in the crosshairs

Over forty concerned residents gathered on Gritstone Road to protest the proposed development
Over forty concerned residents gathered on Gritstone Road to protest the proposed development

Neighbours are once again uniting as their street has been earmarked for a massive development – after being protected for years.

In previous Local Plans swathes of land off the lane were put to one side, deemed inviable and a piece of valuable greenfield land.

The two adjoining sites sit at the north of Matlock, behnd Gritstone Road and Cavandish Road.

The two adjoining sites sit at the north of Matlock, behnd Gritstone Road and Cavandish Road.

But as Derbyshire Dales District Council prepares a new Local Plan, described last week as a ‘desperate’ bid to ‘plonk estates’ on the edges of towns and villages, the land has been opened up for huge development.

Two adjoining sites with potential for 500 houses together are named as prime for development, and go up for consultation among 30 other locations around the Dales.

Six people made speeches to DDDC’s last local plan committee meeting to object to the sites being built behind Gritstone Road and Cavendish Road to the North of Matlock.

Neighbour of the site Christine Martin said: “The developments will not only join up but will continue to be expanded into adjacent fields. The loss of natural habitat will be massive for local flora and fauna.

View from Sandy Lane facing houses on Gritstone Road.

View from Sandy Lane facing houses on Gritstone Road.

“The increase in traffic will cause more congestion for two small existing residential roads. It’s more than disappointing that only two Councillors voted against the proposals as they should all be representing the people who not only voted for them to represent and support the local community.

“They are clearly ignoring the objections as though it’s a done deal.”

In fact, developers are already pre-empting the local plan’s approval with applications, believed by some to be assuming the sites are already fair game.

Matlock councillor Martin Burfoot on the Local Plan advisory committee told: “We were at a site in Doveridge on Monday for the local plan, and on Tuesday it was approved by the plannin committee. On one of those sites was being considered by the planning committee, then on Wednesday we voted on the Matlock area site allocations. I found that rather perverse.”

Similarly two pieces of land in Darley Dale and Two Dales were under appeal in the same week the Local Plan confirmed them as ‘provisional’ sites. And although they’re yet to be approved, Cllr Burfoot says they’re more than likely to go through. Is that the ‘Done deal’?

Cllr Burfoot adds: “Some sites are eminently developable while some are slightly dubious, but given the demand you can’t justify opposition to all the sites put forward.

“Planning officers have tried to be fair by dotting developments all around the district. But further south is far more suitable for development. Ashbourne has the benefit of flatter contours and being further away from the national park, so that needs to be considered.”

As for the fringe of Matlock – no planning application has emerged yet but there is already a prospective developer, so no wonder residents don’t feel like their voices are being heard.

Residents say there are so many issues making the sites unsustainable that plans have been turned down in the past. Now they fear the local plan will change all that.

Julie Dawes who lives on the road said: “Years ago the residents all fought together to keep this a greenfield site and we won, but now, once again, we are having to fight to save the fields and woods at the back of our house from being built on.

“I know that councillors don’t care about the loss of value to our house, or losing the countryside at the end of our garden, but there are serious sustainability issues here - the fields slope into our gardens and the houses flood, the access and additional of hundreds of cars would be a nightmare.

“I think they’ve made they’re minds up, but we can’t just sit back and let them get on with it.”

Recommendations of the committee still have to be ratified by the Full Council in March, followed by a period of formal public consultation in April.

‘Not at the end of my back yard!’

One resident of Gritstone Road says the development will turn his house on the edge of town into an ‘inner

Neil Gibbs, 42, said the very reasons he and his partner moved to Gritstone Road was the country views.

He added: “We purchased our house was the location, and now if they develop behind us they’ll effectively be moving us into an inner-town suburb.

“This is a serious issue that will affect the rest of our lives,” added Neil, an electronics technician. “We know that the district council is being pressured to get a new local plan approved before central government steps in and makes the decision for them. But residents who will be affected by the plan feel that it is being rushed through without due consideration or thought.

“No doubt we will be accused of being NIMBYs but if sites have serious access and traffic issues and have been thrown out in the past as unsuitable for development, then why are they once again being included on the draft local plan?

“This smacks of desperation and a determination to force through a plan regardless of the wishes or repercussions for residents.

“There is no commitment to ensuring that brown fields sites are developed first and there appears to be no attempt to make sure that existing planning permissions are fulfilled before green fields are offered up as sacrificial lambs.”

The stretch of land behind Gritstone Road and Cavendish Road has been saved from development numerous times before, and campaigners say there are myriad reasons it is unsustainable:

● Drainage and excess water runoff

● Natural springs on the site make the land boggy all year round

● Elevated position makes owning a car a necessity.

● Expanding the settlement boundary of Matlock​ will sett a precedent

● Loss of privacy for current residents

● No jobs for new householders

● No schools for influx of young people

● Loss of habitats for Pipistrelle bats, badgers, foxes

● Danger to numerous protected birds including hawks, kestrels and tawny owls

● Site will discourage developers from using brownfield sited.