Cabinet member hits back at criticism over ‘controversial’ Ashfield Local Plan

The Ashfield Council cabinet member responsible for the authority’s ‘controversial’ 8,000-home local plan has hit back at cross-party criticism to the proposals.

By Andrew Topping
Monday, 27th September 2021, 6:30 am
Updated Monday, 27th September 2021, 7:07 am

The authority confirmed consultation will begin next month on the large housing plan, which sets out the council’s housebuilding targets until 2038.

It includes plans for two major housing settlements – a 3,000-home site in Hucknall and a 1,000-home development in Sutton.

The cabinet unveiled its plan for the first time last week – but strong criticism followed from Conservative MPs and Labour councillors over the locations for some housing.

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Coun Matthew Relf, Ashfield Council cabinet member for regeneration and planning, left, and Coun Jason Zadrozny, council leader.

Lee Anderson, Ashfield’s Conservative MP, described the plan as ‘shocking’, while Mark Spencer, Tory MP for Sherwood, which includes Hucknall, described the document as a “dereliction of duty” by the ruling Ashfield Independents.

However, Coun Jason Zadrozny, council leader, said the level of housing is high because the authority is ‘being forced’ by Whitehall to meet Government housebuilding targets.

The Government does set housing targets to be met by local authorities, with Ashfield Council told it needs to build 8,226 homes before 2038.

Councils can be hit with financial penalties from Whitehall if they fail to hit the targets.

However, local authorities decide which land to allocate for housing developments, with the Government having no say on exactly where new homes are built.

Mr Spencer made this point in his response to the local plan, but believes Hucknall “cannot support” the level of new housing being proposed.

Counr Matthew Relf, the portfolio holder responsible for the plan, defended the document when facing the latest full council meeting.

He emphasised the point about national housebuilding targets, adding there are “nowhere near enough brownfield sites” in the district to meet the target.

He said: “It is inevitable fields will have to be built on.

“We would love to reduce this level, and if our local MPs feel too much land would be lost in this plan, I would love to work with them.”

The authority received criticism from Labour councillors over the planned 3,000-home development in Hucknall.

The settlement, at Whyburn Farm, includes plans for an on-site primary school and healthcare facilities, as well as a potential tram extension.

But Coun Lauren Mitchell, Labour group leader, accused the Ashfield Independents of “dumping” houses in the town.

The second, 1,000-home development on greenbelt land off Cauldwell Road, Sutton, also includes an on-site primary school.

Coun Relf said: “One of the proposed new settlements is in my ward. This is hardly the action of someone who’s trying to ‘dump’ development elsewhere.

“Do I like our local plan? No, I do not. However, given the constraints imposed upon us by the Government, do I think our plan is the most suitable and sustainable plan we can [provide]? Yes, I do.”

The first consultation on the document will run from October 4-November 16.

Information will be published on the council’s website, with posters and notices also placed in town centres, community centres and libraries.

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