Back to square one?

Web tile council
Web tile council

The saga over the High Peak’s long-awaited local plan descended into farce on Tuesday night as councillors voted not to accept the vital document after a four-hour meeting in Buxton.

Having agreed proposals relating to sites allocated for housing in the Buxton, Central and Glossopdale sub-areas, members then voted 19 to 18 not to accept the remaining sections of the plan.

This means the authority could now have to start at the beginning with the local plan, though the position was not clear as the Advertiser went to press.

It had been hoped the local plan could be adopted by February 2015, but this is looking increasingly unlikely.

Speaking after the meeting, council leader Caitlin Bisknell said: “The council now has to consider its position but it is in uncharted territory. We’re not sure where we go from here.”

During Tuesday night’s meeting,which was attended by a large number of local residents, members had agreed to remove a site on Laneside Road, New Mills, known as C14 from the local plan.

However, despite strong representations from local ward councillors, a site on Macclesfield Road, Whaley Bridge, known as C9, remained in the document.

Proposing that members accept the submission version of the document Cllr Godfrey Claff said the authority had no choice but to implement a local plan.

“No-one in this room wants to build the number of houses we are being forced to build,” he said.

“We are being forced down a road we do not want to take.”

He added: “It’s important to understand what the consequences would be for every person in the High Peak if just one site is removed from the plan.

“Every site in this plan has been assessed as being viable for housing development. If we take out one site we will be taking out a viable site. The plan will be found to be unsound and we cannot approve an unsound plan.”

A motion to reduce the number of houses proposed from 360 a year to 325 a year was put forward but this was defeated.

Councillors queried how the target of 360 could still be met after site C14 was removed and a proposal was then put forward to abandon the meeting on the grounds the local plan was unsound.

But council officer Dai Larner said: “The target remains. As officers we put forward sites to take these 360 houses. The council has decided that the plan is still sound. Officers in order to meet that target will need to look elsewhere.”

Proposing site C9 be removed from the plan, Cllr John Pritchard said: “Residents of Whaley Bridge are, to put it mildly, bemused by the most unpopular contentious site in the High Peak and why it continues to be included in the recommended High Peak local plan.

“This saga has continued for five years. I’m told by constituents that they feel they have been treated in an arrogant and underhand manner.”

And Cllr Linda Leather said she had concerns over the impact of increased traffic from any housing development on the site, as well as adding: “This is an area of multiple environmental sensitivity and should be taken out.”