Councillors not happy with Ashfield Local Plan - which MP has described as a 'disgrace'
The public will be consulted on Ashfield District Council’s draft local plan next month despite councillors not being ‘100 per cent happy’ with the 8,226-home document.
The Ashfield Independents administration moved forward with the plan at its cabinet meeting on Monday, September 20, agreeing to launch the first six-week consultation stage in October.
The document outlines the authority’s plan for housing and wider development until 2038, including two major housing settlements to bring 4,000 new homes.
But members of the cabinet confirmed they are not entirely happy with the level of housing in the plan, viewing the Government as setting too high a target to be achieved each year.
Meanwhile, the Labour group has also blasted the plans, accusing the Ashfield Independents of hypocrisy by proposing to build on green belt land, after throwing out similar proposals put forward by Labour in 2018.
And Ashfield MP Lee Anderson has described the proposals as a ‘disgrace’.
If approved, the document would allow 457 new homes to be built in the district every year until 2038. This was down from a Government target of more than 800.
Speaking in the meeting, councillors said it means putting forward a “controversial” plan which includes building on greenbelt land.
Councillor Jason Zadrozny, leader of the council, said: “There’s no getting away from the fact this plan is controversial because some people don’t want to see changes [to their communities].
“But I feel our cross-party working group, and the portfolio holder, have done a significant amount of work to steer this in a more positive way.
“It’s fair to say we’re not 100 per cent happy with it, but that’s why we want to make sure [the consultation] is done.
“This isn’t a plan we’re hoisting on people, we want to ask the public what they think so we can make any changes.”
The document includes plans for two large, mixed-use housing developments – one in Hucknall and the second in Sutton.
The Hucknall development, at Whyburn Farm, includes 3,000 new properties alongside employment land. Around 1,600 of the homes will be delivered by 2038.
This development includes plans for a potential extension to the tram network and a park-and-ride facility.
The Sutton development will allocate land in Cauldwell Road, on the Mansfield-Ashfield border, to be used for 1,000 homes.
Both developments include proposals for an on-site primary school, a local centre with retail and community facilities, and seek contributions towards secondary education.
Sites have also been allocated for development in Kirkby, Selston, Jackdale and Underwood.
Councillor Matthew Relf, portfolio holder for regeneration and planning, said: “We know people don’t want to see fields built on, and we feel exactly the same way.
“Our plan uses every brownfield site available, but to achieve the Government’s targets the greenfield sites have to be built on.
“The plan has at its core a strategy with these two mixed-use settlements, and will reduce the strain placed on infrastructure in our existing settlements.”
Reacting to the news, Mr Anderson said: “I am very disappointed that after three years of ripping up the previous local plan, the Ashfield Independents have gone back on their word by drafting up a plan which will see the majority of houses built on green spaces, not on brownfield sites as promised by the council leader in 2018.
"We were promised an innovative and imaginary local plan and this is what we get. The Ashfield Independents now blame the Government, yet the local plan they tore up had around the same number of houses planned for it as the one they have now drawn up.
“How can it be fair that over a third of all new housing for Sutton and Kirkby will be in the area around Skegby and Stanton Hill?
"The people of Skegby were promised that this would not happen and instead the Ashfield Independents have chosen to put over 1,500 houses in that area.
"This isn’t the Government’s choice – it’s the council leaders. It is worth noting that his ward gets just 54 new houses – or three a year. I bet the people of Skegby are wondering what on earth is going on. In 2018 the council leader spoke of infrastructure to go with building. Skegby has been offered no improvements to its roads, schools or doctor’s. What a disgrace this is.”
Much of the Labour anger focused on the proposed 3,000 homes in Hucknall, where the party now has all of its councillors on the authority, claiming the town is being used as a ‘dumping ground’ for the new properties, at the expense of the town’s green belt.
Labour’s group leader on Ashfield District Council, Councillor Lauren Mitchell, said: “In 2018 the Ashfield Independents threw out Labour's local plan because the now leader of Ashfield District Council, Coun Jason Zadrozny, claimed it ‘wanted to build in the green spaces we hold so dear’.
"The Ashfield Independents are now planning on dumping 3,000 houses on the Green Belt in Hucknall. Obviously the green spaces that the Independents holds so dear don't apply to Hucknall.
"These plans would be disastrous for Hucknall and will increase the pressure local services are already being put under.
"We are encouraging residents to make their voices heard by submitting their views to the consultation when it is launched, in addition to holding a public meeting in early October to encourage Hucknall residents to come together to oppose these plans.”
The six-week consultation will begin in October and run through until November.
The authority will issue information on its website, hold in-person events with Covid-safe measures, and display copies of the plan, documents and posters in libraries.
A second consultation is planned in March and April next year, with the document expected to be submitted to the Government in August 2022.