The planning minister received a grilling from Ripley and Heanor Folk todayy as he fielded house building concerns at a public meeting.
Mp for Grantham and Stamford Nick Boles faced an hour long barrage of questions from residents concerned at the future of Amber Valley’s green spaces - if it is forced to deliver on its Government set target of 9,000, new homes by 2028.
Swanwick resident John Briggs asked the Secretary of State whether the current lack of a Local Plan in the borough left “communities at risk” to the policies of the National Planning Policy Framework – which he felt greatly favours developers.
Other questions included how to prevent developers from ‘land banking’, and how to prevent the increasingly current trend in Amber Valley, of companies favouring to build on greenfield rather than brownfield sites.
For many it was a chance to make the minister of local frustrations - particularly in cases where planning applications have been turned down by the borough council’s planning board, only to then be approved on appeal by government inspectors.
Mr Boles told the meeting at Waingroves Methodist Church: “I recognise that planning is always incredibly contentious and you can never satisfy everyone.
It’s probably more difficult for young people to get their first home than it ever has been.
“We have an incredibly big housing challenge, but on the other hand we must hang on to what makes this country what it is.
Those competing priorities have to be resolved locally.”
The minister stressed the importance of Amber Valley Borough Council having a Local Plan in place, which it is currently consulting on now, and urged folk to get behind drawing up a Neighbourhood plan - which he said gave residents the greatest voice in saying where development should take place.
Several folk felt that in cases such as the recent Peveril Homes development fore more than 90 homes between Waingroves and Codnor, which was won on appeal, that inspectors were not taking into account local feeling against particular schemes.
High Street, Swanwick resident George Soudah, said: “My worry is that inspectors apply the letter of the planning policy rather than looking behind the reasoning, and the common sense.”
But the minister replied that until there is a ‘deliverable’ five year housing supply in Amber Valley - inspectors will continue to favour home developers to account for predicted population growth.
Amber Valley MP Nigel Mills, also present at the meeting, said he felt the predicted growth figures for Amber Valley had been ‘over-estimated’, a sentiment echoed by Ripley resident Philp Sanders Rose.
After the meeting, Mr Boles told The News that he understood the frustrations of Ripley and Heanor folk but reiteated the need for the borough to have a Local Plan in place.
“It’s not painless to get there by any means,” he said. “But when it is you get to make the decisions rather than the inspector.”
Amber Valley Borough Council is currently consulting on its Local Plan or Core Strategy.
The document is available to view at Ripley Town Hall, Alfreton Library and at www.ambervalley.gov.uk. Comments should be made by 4.30pm on Friday, August 23. Officers will be available to answer questions, from 3pm to 7pm, on Thursday, July 18, at Wilmot Street Community Centre, Heanor.