Ashfield Council to pause ‘controversial’ Local Plan after first round of consultation
Ashfield Council has said it will pause progress on its ‘controversial’ draft local plan following the first round of consultation to receive ‘clarification’ about the Prime Minister’s housing comments.
Coun Jason Zadrozny, council leader, has written to Prime Minister Boris Johnson and the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities for guidance on remarks Mr Johnson made in his Conservative Party conference speech.
The Prime Minister said the Government will prioritise building houses without ‘destroying the green belt’, suggesting a policy shift to favour developments on brownfield sites.
He said: “We will make it faster and easier to build homes without destroying the green belt, or desecrating the countryside.”
His comments came at the same time as the council launched the first round of consultation on its emerging Local Plan.
The document, which has received furious backlash from residents, will see 8,226 homes built across the district between now and 2038.
It includes plans for a 1,000-home settlement off Cauldwell Road, Sutton, and a 3,000-property development at Whyburn Farm, Hucknall – with more than 35 greenfield sites identified for development.
Coun Zadrozny – who has admitted the plan is ‘controversial’, particularly after his Ashfield Independents party ditched a similar plan ‘which wanted to build in the green spaces we hold so dear’ – has been critical of the Government since releasing the plan, suggesting the homes are being forced on the district by ‘unrealistic and unfair’ targets set by Whitehall.
The Government does set housing targets to be met by local authorities, but councils decide which land to allocate for housing developments and Whitehall has no say on where homes are built.
Coun Zadrozny said assessments by planning officers found no more than about 1,100 of the 8,226 houses in the plan could be built on existing and available brownfield sites, meaning the remaining 7,000 homes must be accommodated on greenfield and greenbelt land to meet the target.
However, he is now seeking clarity over Mr Johnson’s comments, and whether it could lead to a reduction in its housing targets to prevent ‘desecrating the countryside’.
He said: “We’ve asked whether there’s going to be a change of policy or if they want us to proceed.
“We are pausing now after this first round of consultation while we await an answer and the Government are either going to have to say they’re changing policy or come clean and say we must continue and build.”
A DLUHC spokesman said: “Making the most of previously developed land is a Government priority – it will not only deliver new, high-quality homes but help protect our cherished countryside and green spaces.
“We remain committed to continuing our progress towards our target of 300,000 homes a year by the mid-2020s.
“We are currently reviewing departmental programmes and we will come forward with our proposals for reform of the planning system in due course.”
The first stage of Ashfield’s local plan consultation will end on November 16. A second consultation had been planned for March and April next year, with the document expected to be submitted to the Government in August 2022.