In the last week the appeal by Lone Star Land LLP against Derbyshire Dales District Council’s decision was upheld and so the outline planning permission for houses off Wyaston Road has the go ahead.
Underlying this decision is a threat to local democracy which affects us all. There is a hierarchy of housing planning. The National Plan is laid down by the Government and determines the number of new houses required in each Council area. The District Local Plan determines how the housing provision will be decided after consultation with the local community. This is how we ended up with the original demand for 400 new houses to be built over the coming years in Ashbourne.
From time to time there are unpalatable things which need to be done – we are in an enormous economic downturn at the moment and we are all affected. It’s only right thought that the decisions are made as close as possible to the people affected.
Over the years, developers buy land speculatively waiting for the opportunity when they may be able to build on it. Across Ashbourne there are a number of these arrangements and the need for 400 new homes gave all of them hope that they could cash in on their investment.
The Consultation by Derbyshire Dales was controversial. The initial recommendations for building on greenfield sites created a lot of animosity which culminated in a meeting at the Town Hall and ultimately a changed recommendation. The vast majority of the people in Ashbourne wanted the new development to be on the Airfield and this decision was in line with the prevailing Derbyshire Dales Local Plan.
You could be forgiven for thinking this closed the book but unfortunately money is a powerful persuader. The developers have no local interest and if they are locked out this time it could be for another twenty years. The Willow Meadow Farm development was not even one of the sites discussed as part of the Consultation.
So who are Lone Star Land? They are a property development company based in Henley-in-Arden in Warwickshire. They work with landowners to get planning permissions approved to maximise the value of the land but when the deal is done they won’t have to deal with the consequences. Lone Star not only appealed but we, the taxpayers, have had to bear the costs of the Appeal – approximately £10,000. The Government appointed Investigator ruled that the Appeal was justified because the Draft Derbyshire Dales Local Plan and Ashbourne’s Neighbourhood Plan (which will further refine the decision making) may not be ready for another 18 months and therefore should not carry weight in the decision.
Specifically the Inspector reached the conclusion that there was insufficent evidence that the Council enough housing stock for the next five years without the Lone Star land. The District Council have expressed their disbelief and disappointment in the decision. We are about to enter a free-for-all where developers could swallow up the greenfield areas around the town using this precedent.
HM Government have decided that your opinion is irrelevant and, as a consequence, unless something changes there will be no need to build on the Airfield because all the building will have been allocated.
There is still some way to go with appeals and approval of the number and type of houses but this week has been a bad week for Ashbourne and a bad week for local democracy. Let’s hope our MP Patrick McLoughlin or the planning wizards at DDDC can bring some sense to the situation but the clock is ticking.