Local Plan - cleaning up a decade of failure in North East Derbyshire
For more than a decade, North East Derbyshire District has been buffered by inadequate leadership on planning. This has been caused by the lack of a local development plan by the previous District Council who left our area open to speculative development for far too long from developers building too many houses and often in the wrong places. When I was elected in 2017, North East Derbyshire residents had become tired and cynical about a planning system that had gotten out of control and a District Council that didn't seem to know how to solve it:
- Every local authority is supposed to update their local development plan saying where houses should and shouldn’t be built – yet North East Derbyshire hadn't updated theirs since 2005
- Every Council is supposed to be able to demonstrate that it has a supply of land to be built on for the next five years – but North East Derbyshire couldn't do that for many years and so had to adopt a policy in 2010 which allowed development on the periphery of villages and towns where it wouldn’t normally be permitted
- Every village and town has the opportunity to make its own decisions about where new development should go if it is needed – but the old local Council was not active in promoting these ‘Neighbourhood Plans’ and so only a few communities in North East Derbyshire pursued them initially
- Every Council should actively engage with their local community to talk about planning – yet the old Council was not vocal enough for years and residents felt short-changed that they didn’t had the opportunity to shape plans which would have changed our area significantly
I campaigned in 2017 against bad planning decisions and to try to sort out the mess which the Council had gotten us all into. And I know it wouldn't be easy - irrespective of who is in charge, planning can often be challenging and all Councils have a difficult job to get the balance right. The building of new houses can be controversial and there are difficulties in selecting locations which residents can support. Worse still, turning round failing planning policies take time - the seeds of the problems from 2015 onwards were sown years earlier and it will take a number of years to tackle some of the issues that they have caused.
In early 2019, we had some success when we managed to convince the Planning Inspector to change an earlier version of the Council's local development plan to remove some of the building on greenbelt around Dronfield and Eckington. This was a very positive step forward and testament to the power of local residents, campaigners and Councillors.
In May 2019, the residents of North East Derbyshire replaced the old failing District Council with a new team who was dedicated to trying to improve the planning problems for the long-term. Over the last two years, working with your new Councillors, we have tried to take steps to improve the plan and find ways to make it better - particularly around the remaining (four) Green Belt sites. That culminated in Autumn / Winter 2020 / 2021 running an extensive campaign, as part of a final consultation on the Plan, to seek changes (see the four factsheets below which provide further information). The ultimate decision-maker on what the final draft Local Plan will look like is the independent Planning Inspector. Thank you to everyone who responded to the consultation which closed in January 2021 and to everyone who argued for further changes. We are now awaiting the final decision from the Inspector which, we expect, will come sometime in the Summer.
Separately, the Government has also run a number of consultations on broader changes to the national planning system. Whilst no system will ever be perfect, I have responded to these consultations on behalf of North East Derbyshire to highlight some of the lessons we have learnt and to stand up for our area in those consultations. I was pleased to see that the Government announced that it would not go ahead with technical changes to a methodology which calculates housing need which would likely have adversely affected our area. You can read the response I sent in at the time below.
There remains much to do on planning and, whatever happens with the local plan, we still will need a number of years to fully right the ship. Yet, the Council are working hard to bring some order to planning in North East Derbyshire and, vitally, we have taken a major step forward in the last year. As your local MP, I pledge to continue to try to work to improve the plan in the coming months and then to work with the Council to put planning on a firmer footing for the 2020s.