Local Plan one step away from adoption

Watch live webcast 6pm Thursday 7 December as councillors consider adopting the The Derbyshire Dales Local Plan – designed to guide development in the district for the next 17 years.

A Government Inspector’s report on the Examination in Public of the Plan, prepared by Derbyshire Dales District Council, has ruled that it is “sound and capable of adoption”, subject to some modifications, and that the council has “exceeded the requirements of the Local Plan Regulations”.

Local people have already had their say on the modifications in a consultation in July and August this year – and it means the amended Plan can now be put before a special meeting of the District Council on 7 December for formal adoption.

While many of the modifications involve a subtle change in wording, significant new elements requested by Government Inspector Mark Dakeyne BA (Hons) MRTPI include a new strategic objective to protect the setting of the Peak District National Park.

Another new paragraph is “maintaining the role of Darley Dale as a local service centre whilst safeguarding the intrinsic character and quality of the A6 corridor”.

The modifications were requested by Mr Dakeyne following eight days of public hearings in May this year, conducted as part of the examination process.

A summary of the representations submitted during the consultation, together with the District Council’s response to the main modifications, can be viewed here www.derbyshiredales.gov.uk/LocalPlanmodifications 

Mr Dakeyne undertook the independent examination after the District Council submitted the Plan to the Secretary of State in December last year following two years of preparation and 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.

In his report, which is available to read in full here  www.derbyshiredales.gov.uk/LocalPlan, Mr Dakeyne refers to some of the objections to specific sites in the Plan, but sees 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.

He writes:

“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 adds:

“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 tackles 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 writes:

“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.”

Council Leader Councillor Lewis Rose OBE, who will propose adoption of the Local Plan at the 7 December meeting, said:

“In well over 40 years in local government I do not recall a single issue that has challenged councillors and galvanised campaigning groups like this one has.

“What pleases me most about the Inspector’s report is that he recognises that we as a council have indeed listened to local views and taken them into account in the long and thorough preparation of a Plan that will not only meet the housing needs of the Derbyshire Dales over the next 17 years, but the business and jobs expansion that is required to ensure that our local economy thrives.”

Deputy Leader Councillor Albert Catt said:

“For the sites in the Plan and the thoroughness of the process to be vindicated by a Government Inspector is great news for my fellow councillors and the officers who have spent a huge amount of time getting this right.

“The argument for new housing in established settlements is always a tough one to get across and it is easy for campaigners and indeed councillors to get caught up in discussions about infrastructure requirements that actually have very little to do with a policy document.

“To say that some of the public meetings and discussions have been lively is an understatement, but I hope residents of the Derbyshire Dales understand that had we not created this Plan then the Government would have done it for us. It will guide necessary development to the year 2033 – including the provision of affordable housing for local people who call the Derbyshire Dales ‘home’.”

Corporate Director and Deputy Chief Executive Paul Wilson has led a team of officers in the preparation of the Local Plan. He said:

“This has been a hugely challenging task for all concerned. Pleasing everyone who expressed an opinion during the extensive public consultation period was always going to be an impossible task.

“The essential requirement was to prepare with Members’ direction a viable and progressive Plan to guide development in this beautiful part of the UK to help current and future generations with their housing and employment needs while protecting the unique characteristics of the Derbyshire Dales. I am satisfied that we have achieved those aims and thank all of those who have assisted the District Council or contributed to the process.”

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.

Watch live webcast 6pm Thursday 7 December as councillors consider adopting the The Derbyshire Dales Local Plan – designed to guide development in the district for the next 17 years.

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