Ashfield Local Plan timeframe ‘not set in stone’ with pause to continue until Government responds

The timetable for progressing Ashfield’s controversial draft local plan is ‘not set in stone’ a council leader has said, amid concerns over the document being put on hold.

By Andrew Topping
Monday, 31st January 2022, 7:00 am

Coun Jason Zadrozny, Ashfield Council leader, reaffirmed the authority will not be conducting any further work on the plan until it receives clarity from the Government on potential policy changes.

Local plans are drawn up by councils to allocate land for development in future years and explain how they will hit Government targets to build new homes.

The council confirmed in November it was pausing the document amid comments made by both Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Housing Secretary Michael Gove.

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Campaigners fighting plans for two huge settlements in Ashfield have handed in petitions objecting to the scheme to the council.

Mr Johnson’s statement at the Conservative Party Conference in September outlined a Government plan to prioritise housebuilding on brownfield, disused sites, and for protection to be given to greenfield land.

Mr Gove’s comments, made in Parliament in the autumn, described the current methodology of calculating housebuilding targets as “outdated”, suggesting the system could be reformed.

Both issues have been central to the wider discussion about Ashfield’s local plan, with council leaders suggesting the 8,226-home target is ‘unmanageable’ without building homes on ‘precious’ fields.

The authority says it can only build roughly 1,100 homes on brownfield sites before having to find green space to build the remaining homes.

And leading councillors hope the statements made by the Government could see major changes brought forward to the local plan system, in turn bringing down the number of homes required from the document significantly.

Speaking in the latest full council meeting, Coun Zadrozny explained more details behind the plan’s delay.

The suspension of the plan came at the end of the first stage of consultation in November – after huge opposition to the council’s proposals – with the second round of consultation due to begin in March or April, under initial timescales.

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However, Coun Zadrozny said this will now not go ahead until the Government responds to his queries.

He said: “The plan’s timeframe is indefinite on the basis we have to wait for the Government to come back to us and then we have to respond.

“Part of that response could be that there’s a significant change to the plan and the Government’s response could lead to all sorts of avenues meaning that timeframe isn’t followed.

“We’re not following the timeframe to push forward with the plan, we’re trying to pause and change it on the basis of the response from the Government.”

The remarks come just days after campaigners had the opportunity to air their concerns about the plan.

Major developments within the plan propose 3,000 homes on greenbelt land at Whyburn Farm, Hucknall, as well as 1,000 homes on greenfield land at Cauldwell Road, Sutton.

These two developments were subject to their own petitions, totalling more than 9,000 signatures, while a motion calling for the plan to be redrawn was also debated at the latest council cabinet meeting.

All three submissions were ‘recognised’ and will become part of the formal draft local plan consultation, but no decision on whether to scrap the plan was taken at the meeting.

The Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities has been approached for a comment on the council’s queries.

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