And so the saga continues. The 400 new houses for Ashbourne are still a long way off but the wrangling continues. The number has reduced from 376 to 367 due to builds already planned or underway and now looks to have increased again to 423. There is a meeting on 23rd January in Wirksworth which will put to bed, in theory, the recommendations of the District Council on where new housing should go. The report which will be reviewed is here:
The public consultation view has been heard but there is still a long way to go on this story as there are adjustments to information away from public gaze and interested parties step in and attempt to change the DDDC view. You really should read the document – especially the appendices of newly submitted comments. Think about how these sound to Councillors who don’t know Ashbourne, our views or the sites in detail. The last meeting is a distant memory and we all know the importance of the most current thing that you see or hear. They all have day jobs and will turn up in Wirksworth to possibly hear representations from skilled orators being paid to get the right outcome for their clients. The Councillors will be under pressure from national Government to meet their obligations and don’t want to get involved in long and expensive legal wrangles. Hopefully Councillor Lewis Rose OBE has the legal expertise to deal with any nonsense in this area.
As far as Ashbourne is concerned, the last time we had visibility, the Planning Officer’s top priorities (where building should happen first- land next to Old Derby Road and Leys Farm, Wyaston Lane) were reallocated as priority 3. The airfield – overwhelmingly the choice of the public consultation – was given a priority two by the planning officer but this was changed to priority 1 at the meeting. The Hillside Farm site was originally priority 3 but this became priority 2.
The current proposal is that 367 houses be built at the airfield, and 56 at Hillside Farm across two sites. The capacities have also been adjusted with the airfield being downgraded from 500 to 400 homes and Hillside farm having a capacity of 180 rather than 161. There are also 27 houses in Doveridge proposed. There is also a suggestion therefore that the 367 was “a minimum” and so we are now looking at potentially 423 in Ashbourne. The reason for including the Hillside Farm location is solely because there are concerns over the speed of delivery of housing at the airfield. The plan is that offering Hillside farm will allow the DDDC to fight off planning applications for other greenfield sites.
The purpose of the second meeting on the 23rd is to review the recommendations, listen to other representations and make a decision.
The additional comments received are:
1. Airfield. A letter from a design practice on behalf of the landowners at the Airfield stating their commitment to bring forward development of the site. They think the first houses could be for sale in Autumn 2015. As the land is owned by people with an interest in JCB they should have the technical muscle to make it happen.
2. Willow Meadow Farm. A planning submission for developing 65 homes on greenfield land at Willow Meadow Farm. This was a site downgraded at the last meeting to a priority three. The submission is challenging this. There is then a further submission from an agent on behalf of the owners of the land suggesting that the airfield is unsuitable by comparison and suggesting that Willow Meadow Farm should be made a priority 1 again.
3. Leys Farm. A submission for an agent for the owner of the land at Leys Farm with some interesting claims:
- Development could enhance the biodiversity of the site
- The developers could make a financial contribution to the enhancement of QEGS
- Plans have been modified to maintain a band of landscaped public space across the top of the site to create a barrier with the existing Premier Avenue development
4. Hillside Farm. Submission from a design practice clarifying the location of the northern section of the Hillside Farm development. This would be accessed from Station Street and the submission suggests proximity to the town centre makes this the best of all sites. There is a further submission on behalf of the southern part of this site confirming it is already owned by housing developers and highlighting the suitability of it for building a sustainable development.
There is still a way to travel and we need to make sure we continue to hold the council to account. There are adjustments to the plans being made all the time and undoubtedly there will be some hefty legal budgets ready to be wielded in order to allow some of these interests to cash in on their investment in land. This will be a real test of the District Council’s authority and demonstrates the importance of a clear Ashbourne Neighbourhood Plan. At the moment, the inevitable loose wording of an ageing Local Plan viewed from a District Council level of strategic detail leaves loopholes. It means we all need to keep our eyes and ears open for those wishing to exploit them. The Neighbourhood Plan would fill in all the little cracks and imprecision from a Town perspective to give us the kind of place we would all like to live in.
Although we have all spoken and made clear our views I do not discount the possibility of waking up on the morning of the 24th to find a complete turnaround, a deferral or a string of delaying legal challenges.