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Plans for 3,000 homes on greenbelt scrapped after 8,000 name petition submitted

Cabinet members have approved plans to remove Whyburn Farm from Ashfield District Council’s controversial housing plan and to progress with a significantly-reduced housing target.

The greenbelt land in Hucknall had been allocated for 3,000 homes under the council’s housing document.

But the plan was met with fierce opposition from Hucknall residents, who submitted hundreds of responses to a public consultation and provided an almost 8,000-name petition calling for the proposal to be scrapped.

The council confirmed last month it had “listened to their concerns”, with the authority’s local plan development panel last week recommending Whyburn Farm should be removed from the document.

Now cabinet members have followed up on their recommendation by approving plans to significantly change the direction of the local plan process.

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Rather than submitting a plan for 8,226 homes over 15 years, the authority will remove all 3,000 homes from Whyburn and instead emphasise the plan’s wider benefits including job creation.

It will also highlight the difficulties in bringing the plan forward without “encroaching on the greenbelt”, with the authority stating it is only capable of building 1,100 homes on brownfield former industrial sites.

It means the council will now go back to the local plan development panel to finalise the reduced local plan, including setting out where about 5,000 homes will be built, before launching a second public consultation at a later date.

The results of this consultation will feed directly to the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities, before a White-appointed planning inspector decides whether to approve the document.

The authority must have its local plan in place before the Government’s deadline of December next year.

Speaking in the meeting on Tuesday (September 27), Councillor Jason Zadrozny (Ash Ind) said: “If we don’t progress with this option and go to the consultation, Ashfield would be a developer’s charter where anyone can put in applications.

“Residents in Ashfield deserve better than that. This might not be a perfect plan but at least it protects vast swathes of land.

“The clear fight for us is to say we cannot accommodate 8,000 houses in Ashfield without going into the greenbelt.”

The move follows comments made by senior Government officials – including current Prime Minister Liz Truss, her predecessor Boris Johnson and former housing secretary Michael Gove – about potential Whitehall policy shifts.

All three politicians either suggested protections against greenbelt development were on the horizon or made reference to a future change to the current housing calculation methodology.

Existing rules mean the Government creates housing calculations and local authorities use these to set their own housing targets.

In Ashfield, the calculations meant 8,226 homes were needed between now and 2038 – a target long described by local politicians as “unrealistic”.

The plan was paused following comments by Mr Gove and Mr Johnson earlier this year, with the council awaiting clarity over potential policy changes.

Cllr Zadrozny then opted to remove Whyburn Farm from the plans after recent remarks by Ms Truss.

In these comments, made during the summer leadership hustings, the new Prime Minister described housing targets as “Stalinist” and indicated more powers would be given to local leaders when creating local plans.

Ashfield councillors have said they see this as an opportunity to “test the resolve” of Ms Truss and her new Government while stating the district “cannot accommodate” 8,000 houses.

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