Petitions and motion calling for Ashfield’s local plan to be scrapped finally due for debate

The offices of Ashfield District Council.
By Andrew Topping, Local Democracy Reporter

Campaigners will have the opportunity to air their concerns over Ashfield District Council’s controversial draft housing plan when the authority’s cabinet meets this week.

The council published its draft plan – which sets out where 8,226 homes will be built between now and 2038 – in the autumn.

But the document led to backlash from numerous resident groups, who feared a number of large-scale housing settlements being planned in their areas.

The plan proposed creating a 3,000-home development on greenbelt land at Whyburn Farm, Hucknall, and a separate 1,000-home settlement off Cauldwell Road, Sutton-in-Ashfield.

Both developments would come with their own community facilities including a primary school and a health centre, while the Hucknall settlement could also lead to a tram extension.

However, residents in both communities hit out at the plans and created petitions calling for them to be scrapped, with concerns raised over the impact on existing communities and a loss of wildlife.

Two separate petitions were submitted to councillors at the start of December totalling more than 9,000 signatures, with the “Hucknall Against Whyburn Farm Development” petition gathering more than 7,600 supporters.

The Cauldwell Road campaign gathered an additional 1,700 signatures, with leaders from both campaigns speaking briefly during the December meeting.

But both petitions received just 15 minutes of discussion each and a separate motion on the issue was deferred to this week’s cabinet meeting, with the cabinet currently the responsible committee for the plan.

The deferral led to accusations the ruling Ashfield Independent group was “squashing democracy on purpose”, claims the party rebuked.

Now campaigners will finally air their concerns, with both petitions and the motion to be discussed on Tuesday (January 25).

The cross-party motion, submitted by Councillors Lauren Mitchell (Lab) and Kevin Rostance (Con) – who both represent Hucknall – called for the cabinet to consider replacing the document “at the earliest possible opportunity”.

It said: “Considerable opposition to the development proposals within the Draft Local Plan to expand Hucknall has been advanced.

“This council, therefore, resolves to request the cabinet to fully take into account the consultation submissions and to address the opposition to the Draft Local Plan.

This will be done by urgently reviewing this version of the Draft Local Plan, which objectors consider allocates a disproportionate number of dwellings to Hucknall and destroys a significant portion of Green Belt land. 

“And considering whether to replace it, at the earliest possible opportunity, with an amended plan.

“This amended plan should allocate a greater level of new housing beyond Hucknall across Ashfield district, and seek to ensure any such plan is sustainable.”

The motion adds the council should consider “the adequacy of all infrastructure and services” when proposing the number of houses to be built.

The ruling Ashfield Independents confirmed they have paused progress on the plan following the first stage of consultation, which ended in November, while the council awaits clarity from Government.

It follows statements made by both Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Housing Secretary Michael Gove, who suggested policy shifts from the Government could impact council housebuilding targets.

Speaking at the Conservative Party Conference in September, Mr Johnson said the Government will prioritise housing on brownfield sites and protect greenbelt land, while Mr Gove described housing targets as “outdated”.

The Ashfield Independents hope either of these statements could see the council’s 8,226-home target reduced, with the council finding just 1,109 homes could be built on brownfield sites district-wide.

Cllr Jason Zadrozny (Ash Ind), the council’s leader, previously said: “We’ve asked whether there’s going to be a change of policy or if they want us to proceed.

“We are pausing … while we await an answer and the Government are either going to have to say they’re changing policy or come clean and say we must continue and build.”

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