Consultation on the district Local Plan has opened this week – giving residents the chance to share their views on prospective development sites in the area.
The Local Plan, developed by Ashfield Council, outlines how the places in Ashfield where people live, work, learn and visit should develop over the next 17 years – and includes proposed sites for more than 8,000 homes.
A council spokeswoman said: “The Local Plan is where the big decisions on planning for the future of our communities and the district will be made.
“It sets out where homes and employment units will be built, where community facilities and infrastructure such as schools will be needed and what areas should be protected for their environmental and other benefits.”
Coun Matthew Relf, council cabinet member for planning and regeneration, said: “We are investing in making Ashfield an area of excellence for manufacturing, automation and distribution, bringing high quality jobs to the district.
“The development of housing, infrastructure and community facilities play a vital role in that.
“The future is bright for Ashfield and the Local Plan plays a pivotal role in its future.”
The new draft plan has proved controversial, after a number of greenfield sites were listed as potential housing sites – when in opposition five years ago, the Ashfield Independents, who now control the council, had strongly objected to Labour’s proposed plan for the use of such sites.
Coun Jason Zadrozny, council leader, said at the time: “Labour bosses are ignoring the thousands of residents who would have preferred to see development and regeneration of the many brownfield sites now left to rot.”
The party then dropped the plan when they seized power – with Coun Zadrozny saying in 2019: “One of the first things we did when we took over the council was to rip up Labour's housing plan, which wanted to build in the green spaces we hold so dear.”
And Coun Zadrozny admitted the latest plan was ‘controversial’.
He 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.”
Lee Anderson, Conservative for Ashfield MP and a former district councillor, has branded the plan ‘a disgrace’.
He said: “I am very disappointed that, three years after 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.”
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 – strongly opposed by Labour – includes 3,000 properties alongside employment land. About 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.
Coun Relf, said: “This consultation gives residents the chance to have their say on the plans.
“A significant amount of engagement has already taken place during the evidence gathering stages of the Plan preparation. This includes discussions with site owners, liaison with agents, developers, the highway authority, service providers, other local councils, and responding to queries from members of the public or local organisations.
“We’re now asking you to have your say.”
The Teversal, Stanton Hill & Skegby Neighbourhood Forum has promised a ‘detailed response’ to the document.
It said: “The Draft Local Plan consultation represents an opportunity for everyone in Ashfield and beyond to think about how the places people live, work, learn and visit should develop over the period to 2038.”
“The Forum will be composing our own detailed response to the Draft Local Plan.”
The forum is planning an online Zoom meeting where residents can have their say, on November 3.
Copies of the draft Local Plan can be viewed at Sutton, Hucknall and Selston libraries, as well as the Council Offices on Urban Road, Kirkby.
Coun Relf said: “I encourage all residents to have their say on the Plans.
“Your feedback and comments are what will help shape the Local Plan and the future of Ashfield.”
The consultation runs until November 16.