Rearranged date confirmed for meeting to determine future of Ashfield’s local plan

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

Ashfield District Council has confirmed the rearranged date for a meeting to determine the future direction of its controversial housing plan.

The Local Plan Development Panel meeting was due to take place on Tuesday morning (September 13) but was cancelled by the authority following the death of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II.

It came as part of a raft of council meeting cancellations that saw several local authorities in the county postpone meetings during the period of mourning.

The local plan meeting will see councillors determine the next steps for the housing document, including whether controversial plans to build 3,000 homes on the greenbelt at Whyburn Farm in Hucknall will be scrapped.

Now the authority has confirmed the meeting will take place on Friday, September 23, in time for councillors to make recommendations to a rescheduled cabinet meeting on September 27.

The Ashfield Independent-led authority says the meeting will take place in its council chamber, at the headquarters in Urban Road, Kirkby-in-Ashfield, from 10am.

A rearranged planning committee meeting, initially scheduled for Wednesday (September 14), will then take place at 1pm on the same day to determine the latest applications up for debate.

It comes after the housing document was paused when the Ashfield Independents sought clarification from Whitehall about potential changes in national policy.

The move was made in response to comments made by former Prime Minister Boris Johnson and the previous Levelling Up Secretary Michael Gove.

Both had previously suggested changes to housing calculations and restrictions on greenbelt building could be on the horizon.

Local plan rules mean councils set their own housing targets based on calculations provided by the Government, with Ashfield’s calculation meaning 8,226 homes will be required between now and 2038.

This is a target leading councillors, including Cllr Jason Zadrozny (Ash Ind), the authority’s leader, have long described as “unrealistic”.

The council leader later revealed plans to scrap Whyburn Farm from the plans altogether.

It came in response to a public backlash, with Hucknall residents calling for the greenbelt site to be removed during consultation and through an almost 8,000-name petition submitted to the authority last December.

Cllr Zadrozny told the Local Democracy Reporting Service he had listened to the concerns, revealing revised plans to submit a slightly more than 5,000-home document over 10 rather than 15 years.

His comments came following remarks by the new Prime Minister Liz Truss during summer hustings events, when she described housing calculations as “Stalinist” and suggested giving more planning powers to local leaders.

The Ashfield Independents administration now hope her comments will lead to a significant shift in how housing plans are created.

And papers published ahead of the local plan development panel last week confirmed councillors will be presented with four options in moving the plan forwards when the rescheduled meeting takes place.

These include continuing to pause the plan, progressing with it in its current form, removing Whyburn Farm from the document, or making separate, smaller changes but continuing with the 8,226-home target.

Whatever decision is taken by councillors on the panel will be taken forward as a recommendation to be approved by cabinet members on September 27.

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