Are my critics the NIMBYs?

I cannot claim to be surprised by the virulent responses to my letter (Matlock Mercury, May 24) though I am somewhat disappointed by the grounds chosen by the critics.

Let me first respond to John Evans. Interestingly, Mr Evans has retreated very swiftly from his promotion of independent councils and councillors.

Now he seems to want to see only councillors who will respect his supposed superior experience and presumably vote how he tells them. If experience is to be the only factor to apply in debates, it will make for a very stifled district council. That said, I am quite happy to exchange CVs detailing local government experience with John Evans, if that is what it takes to convince him that I have a right to speak and vote in council debates.

There is, however, another unwarranted assumption which appears to be upheld by Vicki Raynes and Jane Flanagan, as well as John Evans. All of them seem to suggest that I should do nothing more than represent the Masson ward, for which I was elected and not make any decisions relating to the rest of the district.

Well, I am sorry to disabuse them but one of the first lessons I received from council officers during my induction as an elected member last year, was that we should seek to represent the district as a whole.

That is precisely what I, and I presume other members, tried to do in considering the recommendations in the new Local Plan. To that end I repeat that one of our major tasks was to balance the need for new homes against the need to protect green spaces.

For my part I was looking to uphold that principle in my own division as well as in Tansley, Darley Dale and other parts of Derbyshire Dales. And I will continue to do so during any debates on applications for house building which the Planning Committee receives over the next few years.

That does mean that on some occasions I might be persuaded to support housing at the expense of green space. But I shall do so with an open mind, having given equal consideration to the recommendations of Planning Officers and the views of local residents. I hope my critics will be equally open-minded during those debates.

While those critics seem to see their role principally as defending their patch to the exclusion of any wider considerations it is only to be expected that they should accuse me of similar motives. The reality is much less doctrinaire. Under the new Local Plan, Matlock Bath and Cromford, will have targets for 37 new dwellings, which is in excess of the target for Tansley.

In supporting the Cromford target I was fulfilling the hopes residents put to the recent Community Conversation: Recognition that some future development is required was made, but concerns about the impact on the environment and character of Cromford were expressed. Development should be small scale and high quality with increased affordable housing for families and facilities for an ageing population.

The lack of affordable family housing is affecting the number of young families with implications for the viability of the local school. Tansley, Matlock Bath and Cromford have been accepted as larger settlement areas in the new Local Plan and in the one which preceded it on the grounds that they have the amenities to support further housing development. If Vicki Raynes and Jane Flanagan wish to dispute that judgment I suggest they do so in the consultations which the district council will mount next month. However, I would have hoped the target for new dwellings set for Tansley will serve to promote local amenities and make them less vulnerable than they have been in recent years.

That was precisely the argument raised by a large number of Bonsall residents when the village lost the larger settlement status we had enjoyed until the publication of the previous Local Plan which took the view that we no longer had the community facilities needed to sustain any new housing.

Ironically, despite that judgement Bonsall has managed to increase its community facilities in recent years. So much so that there is a strong argument for the village to regain its larger settlement status, something I am sure many residents will want to explore in the forthcoming consultation. So my position is very different from the NIMBY one the critics have thrown at me. I hope they can be as confident that the charge does not apply to them.

Cllr Bob Cartwright