Town Hall democracy was well displayed in Ashbourne last night. The consultation on Housing by Derbyshire Dales District Council rumbles on with a closing date of 30th August. The Council has done a round of towns and villages, presenting the consultation, explaining the options. The first of these was in Ashbourne just 5 days after the press release. Only 36 alert people turned up to the session at the Leisure Centre and this could have been construed by DDDC as apathy. Due to the concerns raised by Ashbourne people – well amplified by the activities of Peter Fox through the AshbourneAware newsletter, the Council announced an open meeting which took place last night in the Town Hall.
When we arrived at five minutes to 7 the queue was snaking outside the steps and Mayor Bull duly had his place in line to get in. In the ballroom it was standing room only by the time proceedings got underway and around 200 people attended.
Councillor Chell opened the meeting with a summary of the proposals and offered to record the views of the meeting and publish their own views in due course to DDDC. The floor was then handed over to Peter Fox who expressed his view that the only sensible course of action was to use the brownfield airfield site for the entire 400 households IF we have to have 400 sites at all.
The counterbalance to this were some excellent comments from Yeldersley residents commenting about the terrible smells in that area caused by the industrial estate currently and also that there are some houses in the area currently who are just as affected as those bordering the greenfield sites.
There was also extensive discussion about the importance of the “affordable housing” proportion in the building schedule. To Ashbourne’s credit the few xenophobic comments made were rightly criticised by the whole audience. Parents spoke up in agreement with the need to support young people in Ashbourne to get a foothold on the housing ladder. There was also discussion about the importance of protecting Ashbourne through all of this, with its quality of schooling, medical care, road safety, parking and road infrastructure. There was some querying about the need for the number of houses but generally a feeling that, if we must have more people, it needs to be done in the right way. It mustn’t worsen existing infrastructure challenges and should solve some of them.
Peter Fox wrapped up the main debate with a reminder that everyone attending, and indeed anyone interested, must write to DDDC or submit comments via the website to ensure the view of the town is heard.
The meeting was closed with Mayor Bull thanking people for the tremendous turnout and confirmation that the views of Ashbourne will be expressed to DDDC and will be published, along with answers to questions raised, on the Town Council website shortly. The meeting was covered by Natalie Wakefield so expect some great coverage in the Ashbourne News Telegraph.
It left me feeling proud to see so many people turning out on a thundery night and debating an important issue so thoroughly. Well done Ashbourne!