13th October 2013

Below is a copy of the letter I sent in response to Amber Valley Borough Council’s Options for Housing Growth consultation:

P M Carney Esq
Amber Valley Borough Council
Town Hall
Market Place
Ripley
DE5 3BT

Dear Peter

Options for Housing Growth

I write regarding the consultation on the Options for Housing Growth and the Potential Strategic Sites being considered by Amber Valley Borough Council.

Firstly, I can see the logic for considering these issues as part of the Derby Housing Market Area to ensure these issues are considered in a coordinated strategic manner. Of course to achieve that it is important that all areas around Derby are included and thus it is a pity that Erewash, which shares a substantial border with Derby City is excluded, and when assessing where some of the scope for urban extensions for Derby could be located, clearly parts of Erewash should not be excluded from consideration.

In addressing the issues raised in the Options document, my comments are focussed on the towns (including surrounding villages) of Alfreton, Heanor and Ripley which fall within Amber Valley constituency, and I have sought to comment in detail on other areas.

  1. 1. It is of course difficult to predict future population growth and the extent of economic migration over a long period, and this will clearly be impacted by the current economic conditions and when and how the situation improves. Given the overall Government efforts to reduce migration to the UK and the current economic climate, I would suggest that the higher end of the options set out should not be used and I would therefore regard the lower option, based on balanced migration into the Derby HMA, as the most reasonable at this stage.
  2. 2. I would strongly urge all the Councils to focus on the use of Brownfield sites, including those that represent problem sites in need of clean up and decontamination. If necessary New Homes Bonus funding could be used to help restore these sites. We should not be using Green Belt because this is easier in the short term than tackling long-standing problem sites. Option 1 seems the most preferable, namely concentrating development in and adjoining Derby as this is where the most likely options for employment, public transport, services and infrastructure will be available. The next best option is then likely to be around the existing towns for similar reasons, although then the provision of infrastructure will be a significant challenge.
  3. 3. The estimate for the number of homes that could be delivered in Derby City seems low but I am not familiar with the details.
  4. 4. No comment.
  5. 5. No comment.
  6. 6. There has been significant development in and around Alfreton, Heanor and Ripley in recent years and there are already concerns about the availability of infrastructure and public services to support these developments. Substantial new development would therefore require substantial investment in infrastructure. It is also important that communities remain distinct and are not joined up/merged by developments.
  7. 7. Some villages could absorb some additional small, piecemeal, development as and when land becomes available or current use seems to be viable. This has of course been an ongoing process leading to significant development in many villages already. One example could be the old Stevenson’s dye-works at Bullbridge which, following decontamination, could, as part of a mixed-use development, provide a sizeable number of houses in an attractive, brownfield location.
  8. 8. I cannot think of any location in my constituency that would be even remotely suitable for a “new settlement” of the size under consideration. This would have a devastating impact on the greenbelt.
  9. 9. There are numerous investment needs in Amber Valley which should be addressed if any development is to be allowed to proceed, and these are likely to be specific to each community. As set out above investment in infrastructure would be required to support any development and specific issues such as the need for a Ripley-Woodlinkin by-pass, noise-reduction measures along the A38, investment in town centre regeneration for Alfreton, Heanor and Ripley should all be taken into account.

Potential Strategic Sites

As set out above, my view is that the lower end of the range for housing growth should be used and sites located in or adjoining Derby should be preferred. Clearly none of the Potential Sites within Amber Valley constituency meet this criterion.

The issues in relation to individual sites have been well, and properly, commented on by their local communities and so I will not rehearse all the individual comments again here. I would however like to stress that in considering all the options the Council should make every endeavour to:

  • Protect the Green Belt – use of the Green Belt should be a last resort – once lost it cannot be recovered ;
  • Keep individual communities distinct – development that merges towns and or villages should be avoided and some of the Potential Sites would cause a great risk of this. Many of our communities have historic, separate identities that should be respected.
  • Redevelop brown field sites – there are various brown field sites not included in this list of options that could contribute significant numbers of houses without loss of green field land.

Finally, can I remind the Council of the importance of continued consultation on these issues as the Council’s thinking progresses and ideally of the need to obtain agreement from the potentially affected communities through the Neighbourhood Planning process.

Yours sincerely

Nigel Mills MP

Member for Amber Valley