Fears for future of Ashfield after housing development gets green light

Residents are concerned about plans to build 37 new homes near Pleasley Road in Skegby G130225-5c
Residents are concerned about plans to build 37 new homes near Pleasley Road in Skegby G130225-5c

CONCERNED residents say they fear for Ashfield’s future after a large housing development in the Skegby/Sutton area was controversially given the green light.

Outline planning permission was granted for the residential development on land off Gilcroft Street and St Andrew’s Street in Skegby and Vere Avenue in Sutton last week, following a Planning Inspectorate inquiry in November. The application had initially been refused by Ashfield District Council before being overturned.

Worried residents in Teversal, Stanton Hill and Skegby had initially attempted to formulate their own Neighbourhood Plan to safeguard their area.

The homeowners had come up with the plan due to Ashfield District Council not having a suitable Local Plan in place, but they were advised by the council that this was not needed.

Richard Goad, chairman of The Friends of Teversal, said they now fear that houses could be built on any site where an application goes in and that ‘a precedent had been set.’

Mr Goad, who has experience in housing policy from his time as chief executive of Mansfield District Council, said: “Every council should have a decent Local Plan and appropriate housing land stock.

“It seems that Ashfield District Council have dragged their heels and not really identified appropriate areas for housing developments.”

Mr Goad said that residents are concerned that the appeal decision may influence other applications.

“There’s land available but Ashfield District Council have just dragged their heels in defining what areas could be developed and what areas shouldn’t.

“Without that plan in place, anyone who actually applies is likely to win their appeal,” he said.

The Save our Skegby group has been campaigning against developments that they feel will spoil their village - including one for 37 dwellings on land between Pleasley Road and Mansfield Road.

Member Steffan Goodall, who objected to the Gilcroft Street application, said the appeal decision ‘could open the flood gates for applications of this type’.

“In general it is quite a scary time for all villages with regards to the decision to push this thing through,” he said.

“It’s a massive development and it’s very sad in my opinion.”

Mr Goodall said the potential implications of such a big housing estate on Skegby and the surrounding countryside are already causing ‘panic’.

“People move to Skegby becasue it’s a village and losing what little countryside we have nullifies the reason for being there.”

Fellow group member Jo Alvey said it was ‘shocking’ that the development is going ahead and it gives other housing developments in the area ‘the green light’.

She said there are worries about the strain it will put on the few amenities that exist in Skegby and on its roads.

“There’s a lot of concerns but the main one is losing the identity of the village and the feel of the village,” she said.

“Where’s it all going to end? How much of the village is going to be left and how much of the countryside is going to be left?”

Council planning chiefs admitted that the large scale housing development in Skegby had been given outline planning permission because the authority does not have a five-year housing land supply.

But they say this will not set a precedent for similar planning applications - stating that each application will be considered on its own merits.

Christine Sarris, corporate manager - planning and building countrol, said that the fact that the council does not have the advised housing supply is a ‘legacy’ of housing sites in the district being delivered.

She added that the authority has a ‘great track record on providing housing’, but because of that it is ‘more and more challenging’ to find new, suitable housing sites.

“The Government is pretty insistent that the council has a five-year housing supply,” she said.

“We are working hard to identify the best sites to bring forward for housing development.

“We have worked very effectively as councillors and officers to identify sites, which came out in the preferred approach for the Local Plan.”

ADC’s Local Plan expired in 2011 and a new one will not be ready until at least 2014.

A consultation on the council’s preferred approach was held in the autumn and it is now going through the responses. Another consultation will then be held.

But the conclusions of the Secretary of State and planning inspector were that ‘little weight can be given to the emerging local plan’ when deciding on the proposed Skegby/Sutton scheme.

Ms Sarris said that this is a ‘different view’ on the validity of the previous and emerging plans to that the council holds, but she said that it does not mean that other applications for housing developments will now be granted planning permission just because the council has no valid Local Plan currently.

“The local authority will take a consistent approach to planning applications and assess any on its merits,” she said.

“Every time there’s a site proposed there will be people who are positive and those who are negative and we have to weigh that up very carefully.”

This application site was not allocated for housing in the Local Plan Preferred Approach, but to remain as countryside.

Trevor Watson, service director - economy, said the council was ‘disappointed’ with the appeal outcome.

“The council is continuing to develop the Local Plan and is committed to developing a plan that will guide future development to the best possible locatinos to support economic growth, the district’s town centres and rural communities, whilst minimising the unwanted effects of development,” he said.