Along with Brexit the main issue with in the recent local elections in Amber Valley was the Council’s proposal to remove 15 sites from the Green Belt and allow houses to be built on them. The consultation on this closed 2 weeks ago and the Council will decide next week whether to go ahead with the plan or withdraw the plan and start the process again – this could mean a delay of 3 to 5 years.
It is imperative that Council’s produce local plans – this is how we can control development and make sure that the new houses we desperately need get built in the right places, with the right infrastructure and not wherever is easiest and most profitable for developers. Amber Valley’s local plan is already many years late and the lack of has resulted in several sites being developed that could otherwise have been protected.
But that does not mean that we should accept losing Green Belt unnecessarily and without proper consideration and consultation. No plan is better than a bad plan. I have long stated a commitment to protecting our Green Belt land, except in the most exceptional of circumstances.
National Planning policy states that the Green Belt should only be used in exceptional circumstances, and after local authorities have demonstrated that they have exhausted all other options; including the use of brownfield sites, co-operating with their neighbours and looking at further density in their developments.
Unfortunately, I do not believe that Amber Valley Borough Council have exhausted all other options, nor do I feel like there has been adequate co-operation with the general public. There was no public consultation on the initial Green Belt review and no consultation on which sites should be removed from the Green Belt; denying the public the opportunity to provide evidence on the respective merits of each site. Additionally, there was no opportunity for the public to reconsider the non-Green Belt sites that had been previously rejected in light of these new plans.
I therefore hope the Council does decide not to proceed with the Local Plan as currently prepared. I would however urge that a compromise is found to avoid a further long delay – removing the controversial Green Belt sites but finding a way to resubmit the plan for consideration this summer.