Sunday 21 April 2024
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1,000 planned homes could be shelved from housing strategy

Ashfield District Council could remove a second massive development from its future housing strategy.

A committee voted on Tuesday (November 15) to shelve the 1,000-home development earmarked for Cauldwell Road in Sutton-in-Ashfield.

In September, the same committee agreed to press forward with plans to ditch a controversial 3,000-home development for greenbelt land at Whyburn Farm, Hucknall, following strong local opposition.

The Ashfield Independent-led council says it wants to “challenge” Government ministers on housing targets.

The Government asks all councils with planning powers to draw up ‘local plan’ documents setting out areas earmarked for future developments.

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Councils decide their own targets based on calculations set by Whitehall, with Ashfield’s sum long described by some councillors as “unrealistic”.

Tuesday’s decision came after councillors were presented with two options, which included removing just Whyburn Farm alone or the Hucknall site and Cauldwell Road.

Both options would have seen the plan period reduced from 15 years to 10 and allowed the council to demonstrate a 10-year housing supply, as well as providing a “surplus” into future years.

However, a third option was put forward during the meeting which was narrowly approved.

This would remove both sites from the plans but remain with the 15-year period – a bid put forward to challenge Whitehall on “populist promises” over housing calculations.

Councillor Matt Relf (Ash Ind), the authority’s portfolio holder for regeneration, was the cabinet member responsible for drawing up the local plan.

He put forward the third option on Tuesday, which would remove the Cauldwell Road settlement from his Sutton Junction and Harlow Wood ward.

He said: “If we go with a 10-year plan and take these sites out, all we’re doing is pushing those sites into the next local plan … and protecting our reputations now.

“We should, as politicians, give certainty for the future and I’d like that certainty to be reduced housing numbers.

“Let’s go for it and try that. What’s the downside? They declare our reduced 15-year plan unfit and say we need to deliver those two sites.

“Those two sites would then get delivered anyway either through that or in the next plan.”

He added: “If you’re trying to challenge somebody, you don’t put forward what you think you can get away with. You put forward something that’s challenging, and I think this Government should be being challenged.”

His comments came in response to numerous remarks from national politicians over housing calculations.

Housing Secretary Michael Gove previously described targets as “outdated”.

Liz Truss and Boris Johnson – the previous two Conservative Prime Ministers- also suggested major changes to how councils plan housebuilding were on the way.

But no concrete policies have since been put forward by ministers.

All three Hucknall councillors – Lee Waters (Ash Ind), Keir Morrison (Lab) and Kevin Rostance (Con) – abstained from Tuesday’s vote over wider concerns about greenbelt development in their town.

But Cllr Waters, who represents Hucknall North, described all options as “risky”.

The committee’s decision will need to be approved by cabinet members and the authority would need to seek further assessments on how to bring the amended plan forwards.

It’s expected another round of consultation would then take place in the new year, with the results then sent to the Government’s Planning Inspectorate for a full review of the reduced plan.

No local authority has been successful in challenging housing targets in this way, Tuesday’s meeting heard.

If the Inspectorate refuses the council’s reduced plan, it could have the power to force the initial document – including both settlements – to be implemented in full.

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