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4000 new homes removed from council’s Local Plan

Two huge future developments in Ashfield District Council’s controversial local housing plan have been officially removed by cabinet members.

The 3,000-home development at Whyburn Farm, Hucknall, and the 1,000-home plan at Cauldwell Road, Sutton, will now no longer be taken forward.

The authority will also submit a reduced housing plan of 10 rather than 15 years to Government inspectors in the wake of new national planning reforms.

It follows more than a year of uncertainty over the housing strategy after the council said it viewed its 8,226-home target set through Government calculations as “unrealistic”.

Public consultation on the plan led to fierce public backlash about both the main developments – which were planned to make up roughly half the target.

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Petitions with thousands of signatures were lodged calling for the sites to be dropped, while hundreds also objected in the consultation.

It caused the authority to change tact and opt to remove both sites – stating it has “listened to our communities”.

Now that move has been made official by cabinet members on Tuesday (December 13).

It came with a decision to reduce the authority’s housing plan down from 15 to 10 years – an option advocated by planning officers because it still meets a decade’s worth of housing requirements.

Speaking in the meeting, Councillor Matt Relf (Ash Ind), portfolio holder for regeneration, said:

“We have to be pragmatic about what we can achieve here.

“I’m pleased we can move forward with the removal of these two settlements and see what happens in the next 10 years in regards to actual changes of legislation.

“On balance, this is the most pragmatic way forwards.”

The decision followed confusion over Government comments regarding housing reform, which indicated major changes could be brought forward.

The current system requires councils to draw up housing strategies that meet a target set out through Government calculations.

They must allocate sites for future housing across their area and meet the mandatory target – which, for Ashfield, is 457 homes per year until 2038.

 

Now Housing Secretary Michael Gove has revealed the first stages of planning legislation that could turn the words into action.

The reforms could see targets turned into a flexible “starting point” for politicians permitting they can prove the figures would damage the character of their area.

And, if residents do not support councils’ plans, more powers and flexibility could be provided to draw up amended or reduced plans.

Ashfield District Council has been asking for clarity throughout 2022 on what previous Government remarks meant.

Now Cllr Jason Zadrozny (Ash Ind), the council’s leader, says he feels vindicated for reducing the plan and “challenging” ministers.

Speaking after the cabinet meeting he said: “We’re gathering the evidence so we’re the first [council] in the line to say we’re ready to go on a very-much reduced local plan.

“We’ve been fighting for a long time.”

The reforms have been welcomed by one community campaigner who fought for the removal of Cauldwell Road from the document.

Laura Gapski, who runs Bright Sparks Day Nursery in Sutton said:

“The changes will allow councils greater autonomy in determining a more realistic starting point with housing numbers.

“Residents who have campaigned tirelessly to preserve local areas of environmental and historic interest will be delighted to learn that following the Government’s capitulation, targets are advisory and not mandatory.

“That makes much more sense.”

Mr Gove added: “Our planning system is not working as it should.

“If we are to deliver the new homes this country needs, new development must have the support of local communities.”

The council will hold another public consultation on the reduced plan next year, with the results to go directly to the Government’s Planning Inspectorate.

Inspectors will then examine the document in full, with the adoption of the plan required by this time next year.

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