Convenience over conservation?

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Civic leaders have accused planning chiefs of putting the convenience of future housing sites before the need to preserve green spaces in the Dales.

It comes after the allocation of potential sites for 317 new homes throughout the area by members of Derbyshire Dales District Council.

Two of the most controversial sites singled out for housing over the next 15 years are Coneygreave House, in Cromford Road, Wirksworth, and Bentley Brook, in Chesterfield Road, Matlock – both of which are greenfield sites.

Commenting on the 27 homes planned for Coneygreave House, district councillor Irene Ratcliffe said: “It’s very sad really because this is the last green space in Wirksworth - there’s no more open spaces as you go through the town.”

Some district council members have asked why the greenfield site had been chosen over brownfield sites that could become available in Wirksworth soon, such as Haarlem Mill.

Speaking at a meeting of the district council, Cllr Bob Cartwright said: “It strikes me as nonsense that because Haarlem Mill is not available now, like it might be in two weeks time, 
we surrender the greenfield site.”

District councillor Sue Burfoot questioned why Bentley Bridge had been chosen for 65 new homes over sites such as Asker Lane and Moorcroft, which have similarities with it such as being greenfield, being conservation areas and being used by local people for recreation.

“To me it begs the question ‘was Bentley Bridge a convenient site as it has fewer potential objectors compared to the huge number of other proposed sites’,” she said.

“I don’t honestly think the site was given the consideration that other sites were given.”

Paul Wilson, director of planning and housing services for the district council, said: “We have got to go before the Secretary of State and give good reasons why we have chosen the sites we have.

“We are going to be challenged on whether we can deliver the sites we have, and we feel we have got a defendable list.”

He added that the Local Plan Advisory Committee’s choice to reduce the priority of some areas for housing and increase the priority of other areas was ‘part of the process’.

Mr Wilson said the key point of the exercise was to ensure the authority could demonstrate a five year supply of housing plus five per cent, as required by the Government.

“There’s no possibility whatsoever of the district council making its requirements by looking solely at brownfield sites,” he added.

The Mayor of Darley Dale, Ingrid Pasteur, expressed 
concern that there would be an increase of traffic on the A6 as a result of 94 new homes being built on Stancliffe Quarry and Gracelands Nursery, but said she accepted that.

“We have never had a problem with Stancliffe Quarry,” she added.