The adoption of a new Local Plan for the Derbyshire Dales was hailed on Thursday evening (7 December) as “an historic moment”.
Designed to guide development in the district for the next 17 years, the Plan, which has been three years in the making, was adopted at a special meeting of Derbyshire Dales District Council on a majority vote of 20-6.
A Government Inspector’s report on the Examination in Public of the Plan had ruled that it was “sound and capable of adoption”, subject to some modifications, and that the council had “exceeded the requirements of the Local Plan Regulations”.
Proposing the Plan’s adoption at a meeting that can be viewed again on the District Council’s YouTube channel, Council Leader Councillor Lewis Rose OBE said:
“This is an historic moment for this council because many of us in this room and the public have been through what has been an extremely long and difficult process.
“The law requires us to have a Local Plan and we’ve had some very difficult meetings.”
Recording his thanks in particular to Corporate Director Paul Wilson and Policy Manager Mike Hase and their team, Councillor Rose added:
“A great deal of work has gone into this process and they are to be commended for their dedicated work over many years. So I hope we can put them out their misery tonight!
“It is in the interests of the council to adopt this Plan as soon as possible. We don't want to be in the position of other Derbyshire authorities who have received a warning letter from the Secretary of State, because that does not serve the interests of anybody, certainly not our residents. Delay is dangerous.”
Deputy Leader Councillor Albert Catt told the meeting:
“Our genuine thanks go to all members of the public for taking part in this process. Many hundreds have not only attended meetings but made comments in writing and there are stalwarts in the room tonight who have attended meetings going way back to 2007.
“I would also like to pay tribute to Members across all parties because this has been a cross-party venture and there has been very little showing of party political points of view.”
Government Inspector Mark Dakeyne BA (Hons) MRTPI undertook an independent examination after the District Council submitted the Plan to the Secretary of State in December last year following a preparation process that started in 2014 involving extensive public consultation.
The Inspector’s role was to determine whether the Plan is sound and complies with all legal requirements. The criteria for soundness are whether the Plan's policies are positively prepared, justified, effective and consistent with national policy.
Corporate Director Paul Wilson told Thursday’s meeting:
“The Plan now before you for adoption has been positively prepared, thoroughly tested and has received the full endorsement of the Secretary of State's appointed inspector. Indeed it is notable that there isn't a single key issue where the inspector has failed to endorse the approach taken by this council.
"The inspector acknowledges that this council exceeded the requirements in regard to community involvement. He also agreed that we've engaged constructively, activity and on an ongoing basis under the duty to cooperate and that we presented robust evidence to justify a lower Objectively Assessed Housing Need figure of 5,680 dwellings. He also endorsed all of the strategic housing land allocations.
"Throughout the preparation of this Local Plan at various points officers have made reference to the fact that unless this council adopts the Plan as soon as possible there is a risk of intervention by the Secretary of State. On 16 November the Secretary of State wrote to 15 local authorities expressing concern about the progress made on their Local Plan. Within that 15 are two Derbyshire authorities. Thankfully Derbyshire Dales is not on that list.
“The Secretary of State has required those authorities to give him detailed explanation by 31 January to set out their reasons for failure. He has given a very clear statement that Government is preparing to intervene.”
Pointing out that the Derbyshire Dales Local Plan was sound and capable of adoption, Mr Wilson added:
“Council has no discretion in this matter. You need to consider the Inspector's report in its entirety and you either accept it or you reject it. You cannot selectively pick and choose which bits you like and which bits you don't like.”
In his report, which is available to read in full here on the District Council’s website, Mr Dakeyne referred to some of the objections to specific sites in the Plan, but saw no reason for the District Council to amend its original list of 28 new residential sites - 15 in the central area of the Dales and 13 in the southern area.
“Some suggest that people have not been listened to. For example it has been suggested that points made at public meetings have not been properly recorded or given due weight.
“However, it appears that the Council has taken into account views expressed. Moreover, positive preparation of a plan does not mean that all will be satisfied with the outcome. There is a balance to be struck between the requirements of national policy, the development needs of the area and environmental constraints.”
Mr Dakeyne added:
“Overall I am satisfied that where necessary the Council has engaged constructively, actively and on an on-going basis in the preparation of the Plan and that the duty to co-operate has therefore been met.”
The Inspector tackled the suggestion that a new Garden Village should have been put forward to meet a significant proportion of the development needs of the Dales as an alternative to expanding existing settlements, writing:
“No such proposal resulted from the extensive call for sites. Therefore, there is no evidence that such an option is available or deliverable.”
Responding to a campaign by the Wolds Action Group in Matlock, Mr Dakeyne wrote:
“The green fields are clearly valued locally. But the site is not protected by any national or local landscape designation and is not a valued landscape in terms of paragraph 109 of the National Planning Policy Framework.
“Although visible from the Peak District National Park, the site does not form part of the National Park’s immediate setting. The Landscape Sensitivity Study indicated that land in this area adjoining the urban edge is of low sensitivity rising to medium and high sensitivity further up the slopes.
“Housing development would significantly change the site’s character. But developing up the northern slopes of the valley is one of the ways that Matlock has expanded over the years, including in the Victorian and Edwardian eras. Moreover, housing development would be kept to the south of the aqueduct so maintaining an open landscape on the upper more sensitive slopes towards the woodland.”
Updated population projections have seen the overall new homes requirement over the period of the Plan reduce from 6,440 to 5,680.
To enable flexibility, the Plan actually identifies 6,684 new homes, around 3,377 of which have already been built or have the benefit of planning permission. It is anticipated a further 320 new homes will be built by 2033 in parts of the Derbyshire Dales that lie inside the Peak District National Park, where the District Council does not control development.
With a “windfall” allowance of a further 240 dwellings and 262 from section 106 agreements, the designated development sites, once approved, will need to accommodate the majority of around 2,485 new homes allocated in the Local Plan over the next 17 years to keep up with a predicted population growth of 8.4% and economic growth that could see around 1,700 new jobs delivered across the district.
Modifications to the detail of individual sites include implementing measures to deter traffic diverting through Oker and Snitterton in respect of development sites at Halldale Quarry and Cawdor Quarry.
There's also a new specification for the number of homes that can be completed at the site off Matlock's Gritstone Road - 150 - before a link road must be provided through the development from Gritstone Road to Pinewood Road.
In Wirksworth, the number of new homes allocated at land off Middleton Road/Cromford Road is increased from 126 to 150.