Thursday, 6 May 2021

Impacts of Neighbourhood Planning in England - a report by Reading University - 2020

BelperStuff has been re-activated because of the odd comments that are being posted on Belper social media that are trying to trash the Neighbourhood Plan for Belper (NP4B) which is subject to a referendum being held on May 6th 2021. Sadly this report has only just come to the attention of this blog but I post here, at the eleventh hour in an attempt to dispel opinions that are, in effect, just that .. opinions. What follows is evidence that has been gained by an extensive desk study analysis of 141 plans as well as a cohort assessment of 865 completed neighbourhood plans; 143 questionnaires targeted at active neighbourhoods and Local Planning Authorities. Nine case study areas across England involving 20 neighbourhood plans were studied and three targeted discussions with developers, non-completing groups and active neighbourhood planning consultants

This is a report commissioned by the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government which has been undertaken by the University of Reading. The link to the document is below:

To best describe the scope of the task set the University here is an extract from the report:

1.2 Research Brief 

The research was set out by MHCLG to cover a series of core Research Objectives (ROs). These concerned: 

  • Development Impacts and Housing Supply 
  • Other Development Impacts (including Quality of Development) 
  • Decision-Making and Investment 
  • Community Attitudes and Engagement 
  • Influence of Geography 
  • Success Factors and Common Barriers
The key findings are to be found in the Executive Summary which is extracted below:

The key findings are set out in precis and organised here by the six Research Objectives: 

1. Development Impacts and Housing Supply Neighbourhood planning’s contribution to housing supply can be significant. Neighbourhood plans which are allocating housing sites are providing sites for an average additional to local plan allocation 39 units per neighbourhood plan. The study found 18,000 units above LP allocations in 135 plans. However communities seeking to make housing allocations did encounter added burdens, both technical and political compared to creating a non-allocating NP. Scaling-up production of NPs could make a significant contribution to housing supply – particularly if cooperation between neighbourhoods and LPAs are strengthened further. There was no evidence found that NPs displace development from other parts of the local authority area. 

2. Other Development Impacts (including Quality of Development) Neighbourhood plans have helped improve design policy and refined local priorities e.g. housing for specific societal groups. There is further potential within the neighbourhood planning process to reflect both community needs and tie with more strategic concerns coming from above. Closer partnership working between communities and planning professionals (i.e. local government planners and planning consultants) can help address this. Better recognition and more targeted support for the effective integration of placemaking matters that go beyond pure land use planning policy would also benefit neighbourhoods and other interested parties (e.g. local government, third sector, funders). 

3. Decision-Making and Investment Neighbourhood plans have improved local engagement with local planning authorities, and are important vehicles for place-making beyond land use planning. Other initiatives have included the establishment of Community Interest Companies and Community Land Trusts. Impacts of Neighbourhood Planning Page 4 of 44 This highlights that communities lack a formal arena for place-making projects unrelated to planning policy, and may help explain why a large number of communities have not completed land use plans (NDPs). In terms of how the Plans are used in practice, the evidence from LPAs and appeals indicates NPs do have an influential role in decisions, reflecting their legal status, and as a minimum they provide nuance to decisions. Over half of LPA respondents see NDPs as having a ‘moderate’ or ‘high’ degree of influence on decision-making. Moreover, responses suggest the vast majority of decisions that go to appeal go in favour of the relevant NDP. However, their impact will vary according to the circumstances and Plan policies. We found no evidence that NPs were ignored but some communities felt Plans were not always recognised as clearly as they would wish. This indicates that LPAs could better communicate how neighbourhood plans have been taken into account and highlights the value of clear and specific policies that have been road-tested by development management officers. MHCLG could share best practice to support LPAs in their role in developing and implementing NDP policies. 

4. Community Attitudes and Engagement Community attitudes to development may become more positive as a result of the NP experience, and the acceptability of development is supported by a large proportion of Plans with policies on design and affordable housing. Some neighbourhoods reported better relations with LPAs and a more positive attitude to development, but in other cases poor relations with some LPAs and lack of an up-to-date Local Plan also presented a barrier. There was no clear evidence that there is faster delivery of sites, though where sites are chosen in the NDP they are clearly more accepted by the community, which can reduce delays associated with legal challenges or other forms of opposition. Often allocation of sites is a motivator as it allows greater protection of other locally important spaces. It is therefore important to maintain protection for neighbourhood plans from speculative development. 

5. Influence of Geography While there has been strong take-up of neighbourhood planning since 2011, there are many neighbourhoods who have not used this community right. The total number of communities who have started or completed neighbourhood planning went beyond 2,600 in Autumn 2019, but the take-up rates have slowed considerably. The main reasons for this are associated to known time, processual and technical burdens, relationship with local plan progress, and levels of enthusiasm in some local planning authorities. This indicates that for some neighbourhoods an uptodate Local Plan lessens their concern to finalise a NDP. There is a noticeably low take-up in urban areas, and in northern regions. It is notable that all LPAs with no activity are urban. There are a range of reasons for this disparity and if government wish to continue to support the initiative there will need to be affirmative action taken to sustain and expand neighbourhood planning activity. Government are missing an opportunity to realise benefits in urban and deprived areas and assist in their levelling-up agenda. As such Government should consider either increasing support to reflect additional Impacts of Neighbourhood Planning Page 5 of 44 challenges faced by these communities, or ensure community engagement/involvement, in other less burdensome ways. 

6. Success Factors and Common Barriers While NP is a manageable process for most parished communities and a NDP is an achievable goal, support from consultants and positive relationships with LPA are important to helping with progress. MHCLG could do more to identify and share best practice for LPAs, particularly around site identification. The process remains burdensome for community volunteers with the time taken to reach completion around three years (and for many it can take longer). NDPs take longer when Local Plans are in progress, particularly where a new Local Plan is initiated after NDP work has started. This can add a further 6-10 months to NDP production on average. Better alignment with LPAs and Local Plans may assist here. Local Planning Authority (LPA) support overall is varied, with examples of strong support but also ambivalence in other areas. A common criticism was duplication of policies and MHCLG could find ways of better aligning / integrating Local Plans and NP processes – through clearer ongoing communications between LPAs and neighbourhood planning groups.

The full report gives a much better understanding of the important part that Neighbourhood Plans can play in reflecting the wishes of the local community and translating them into an effective planning document.

Friday, 18 October 2019


30 years after the fall of the Berlin Wall are we now about to witness the creation of the Belfast Wall?

The men who build walls of xenophobia

Thursday, 7 March 2019

Myth spinning - - - Amber Valley Borough Council and the Green Belt

Far Laund - Tories want to build 345 houses here when there is no reason why this is needed

It is a myth that we have to build on Amber Valley Green Belt land. There is a raft of facts and figures that clearly show that we have no need to extend our urban sprawl but listening to a Belper Tory councillor explain why we had to build 345 houses on Far Laund plus nigh on a further 1,700 on other sites in the borough had me shaking my head in disbelief at last Monday's Amber Valley Council meeting.

 This was his reasoning:

  1. The AVBC planning board cannot do it's job properly when dealing with requests to build on unsuitable green belt sites .......... they need a local plan.
  2. The Local Plan is endlessly delayed because the council cannot demonstrate a supply of 5,000 new houses in the next 5 years.
  3. The only way to reach that 5 year target is to allow developers to build on unsuitable green belt sites.
  4. Once developers are allowed to build on green belt land the government inspector will at last accept the AVBC Local Plan so the planning board will be able to do it's job more effectively and resist applications to build on the green belt.

I kid you not. I sat in the Ripley council chamber listening to that drivel. Of course the planning board would find the going easier because it had already given away the prime sites they had been elected to protect. My thoughts turned to the word, "myth" . The decision to build on the green belt based upon evidence that is little more than a myth will ensure that we are heading for years of conflict between residents, AVBC and developers.

All four Belper Tory councillors voted to build on green belt land despite years claiming that a vote for them would be a vote to protect Belper from unwanted development. I am sure that Amber Valley residents will not allow this decision o stand after the borough elections in May. The Labour Manifesto clearly states no building on the green belt so, if they take control we should expect immediate action. 

The Labour opposition pleaded with the  council leader, Kevin Buttery, to separate the extension of  green belt protection over Pottery Farm and Cherry Tree Farm (effectively Bullsmoor) so that the plan to build on other sites could be voted upon solely on its merits. Buttery's refusal was playing politics as it was evident, as the leader of the opposition, Chris Emmas-Williams said, every councillor in this chamber would like to see Bullsmoor suitably protected. All to no avail.

Link to a video of the Council meeting 4th March 2019

I had my name down to speak at the meeting but was told on arrival that I was in fact a reserve speaker as Alan Cox had been chosen to speak about Far Laund. I never had the chance to put the case that there was in fact no need to build on the green belt as there was publicly available data demonstrating something quite different. I was not allowed to speak at the meeting so I'm writing this article now in the hope that this appeasement policy can be stopped.

The facts Amber Valley Tories are not telling you

There were so many red herrings and misconceptions coming from the Tories at that meeting and I had to sit silent. It was galling. Their biggest claim was that we cannot meet the 5 year housing supply target for the 2011 - 2028 period, let's look at that:

  • 2011 = 52,596 homes (from 2011 census)
  • 2018 = 58,000 homes  (AVBC declared domestic council tax payers)
  • Therefore the number of new homes 2011 - 2018 is 5,404
  • In 2018 we reached the 2025 target number of homes 7 years early (according to forecast by GL Hearn consultants for the Derby HMA).
What of going forward:

  • The agreed minimum 9,770 homes by 2028 assumed a target of 62,366 total homes in the borough.
  • Taking the figures included in the last Local Plan draft 2017/2018, AVBC were targeting a total 64,515 homes by 2028.
  • Add in windfall and the effect of releasing green belt land and AVBC are targeting up to 66,000 by 2028. 
  • Simple maths shows that AV Tories are pushing for at least an extra 3,634 above the figure negotiated in the Derby HMA agreement.

Demographic data shows that an increase in AV homes of up to 20% between 2011 - 2028 was inevitable so negotiating a figure of a fraction over 18% was a shrewd move in 2014 (Derby HMA heads of agreement 2014). In the light of the fact that the present Tory council are heading for an increase in AV homes of 25% it does seem strange that their leader, Kevin Buttery, endlessly blames Labour for that 18% increase. If they just made decisions based upon that agreement then we would not be faced with the endless challenges that are to come. Think of the time, effort and money expended in relation to the Belper Lane development, Bessalone and Bullsmoor (to be Belper specific). It has been very costly for protesters, councils and developers. None of it necessary if our communities had been able to rely on AVBC to do what they are elected to do.  

There was no need to add Green Belt sites to the Local Plan as we are already on target and, it should be argued, have already reached our 5 year target. It seems that there is the real world as reflected in council tax returns and the parallel reality of AV Tories who have demonstrated their intent of delivering green belt and green field land to developers when there is absolutely no need to do it. Brownfield sites are deliverable but are not the preferred route of AV Tories. You don't have to rely solely on my analysis ...... the government agrees with me:

This is the ongoing monitoring of new homes being built in England and is presented in spreadsheet form. Amber Valley is the 3rd listed authority showing that in the 3 years between 2015 and 2018 there was a requirement to build 1,136 homes but actual performance was 1,648. They forecast that AV is on course to exceed the required 2028 build by 45%. This is in line with my own calculations. Council officers should be aware of this and therefore so must the relevant AVBC cabinet members.

Now you don't just have my conclusion but also a report from the Department of Housing and Local Government  (DHLG) clearly stating that the borough does not have a problem delivering the 5 year requirement and is in fact deeply in credit. The DHLG are forecasting that Amber Valley will build 14,166 new homes between 2011 and 2028 (remember the target was 9,770) which indicates a total number of homes of 66,762 ........ so if anything I have underestimated.

So what should be done

There is of course the ballot box on May 2nd but following that, on May 3rd the new council must move to negate last Monday's decision to build on the green belt. They should also be reaching for the phone to contact the consultants who carried out the Green Belt report and ask them to carry out a similar exercise but this time for brownfield sites of which there are many in Amber Valley.

We need an Amber Valley Brownfield site  report to finally nail the idea being put forward by the current council that such sites do not deliver the housing needed in the borough. Their argument is wrong ........... for example:
  • The brownfield Belper police station site was developed with 14 homes.
  • Taking that "urban" density and applying it across the 149.5 hectares on the AVBC Brownfield register would net over 7,000 homes.
  • Obviously not all brownfield sites would be that promising but we could expect a minimum of 75% deliverability, say 5,250.
  • Add this to the 5,404 already delivered and we have a total of 10,654 (easily exceeding the target of 9,770)

We must ensure that decisions are made upon facts and not myths

Saturday, 1 December 2018

SERA (Labour Environment Campaign) celebrates 10 years of the Climate Change Act (2008)

BelperStuff traveled to London last Monday to attend the SERA (Labour Environment Campaign) celebration, 10 years of the Climate Change Act. Keynote speaker was Ed Miliband who, as Energy minister in the last Labour government introduced the act.

Link to the video for those who need it

I was struck by Ed's passion and thought back to the 2015 General election and the Labour manifesto that promised to re-focus the UK economy around the ethos of sustainable energy. As I listened to Ed I could not help imagining where our country would be now if Labour, led by Ed had won that election ......... the promised 1 million jobs in sustainable energy ............. increased funding for climate change related research and development .........  no withdrawal or dilution from the UK commitment to be a leading global force for the environment .............. no abandonment of UK initiatives to decrease UK carbon emissions .......... no fracking ..................... oh and of course no Brexit involving a withdrawal from EU environmental laws and regulations.

Link to the SERA New Ground magazine election special 2015

Returning home to Derbyshire on the train I sat thinking about the evening and wondered ........... what is the state of play in the UK in 2018. Have we made progress or are we as a nation backsliding? Researching this courtesy of East Midlands Trains wifi led me to this document:

Committee on Climate Change publication/reducing-uk-emissions-2018-progress-report-to-parliament/. This committee was created in 2008 as an independent, statutory body whose purpose is to advise the UK Government and Devolved Administrations on emissions targets and report to Parliament on progress made in reducing greenhouse gas emissions and preparing for climate change.
It is worth checking out their website: Committee on Climate Change website

This initial overview chart taken from the 2018 report illustrated the success of the 2008 act but also highlighted what Ed was talking about, that we have to put the environment at the heart of everything we do:

The verdict of this cross-party and independent committee on Tory performance since 2010 is damning:

That cancelled policy chart (sorry about the quality of reproduction) references cuts that have had a direct effect here in Derbyshire. The County Council had planned 3 Solar parks whilst local Transition Belper activists tried to resurrect a Hydro facility at Ambergate ........ all were cancelled as a direct result of government cuts to sustainable energy projects.
I urge you to read the full document so that the betrayal of the present Tory government of the spirit and intention of the 2008 Climate Change Act can be understood

Ed referenced a SERA article in Labour List

Its worth reading this article by Jake Sumner, the co-chair of SERA:

I value being a member of SERA because it provides a focus for climate change and environment thinking in the Labour Party. It's not just about national and international policies but provides a means by which Labour Councillors and activists (be they parish, borough or county) can promote ecologically sound policies in their local area. As Ed urged, the environment should be at the heart of everything we do and SERA helps to make that possible. A good place to start is this SERA publication:

The Power Book published in collaboration with the Cooperative Party and the Local Government Information Unit.

For more information provided by SERA this is the link - - and of course the link offers you the chance to join and reap the benefits; not least of which is the excellent house magazine New Ground and a chance to attend events, discussions and seminars plus more local activities. SERA was founded in 1973 so is looking forward to 2023 when it will be celebrating 50 years of environment campaigning.

Link to SERA New Ground webpage

Wednesday, 29 August 2018

Kvetchers or gerekhtfartikt protestors ?

This is the third BelperStuff blog concerning antisemitism and the Labour Party (click here for the first one  and if you are up for more click here for the second post in April 2018). A lot has happened in the last 4 months, essentially more of the same, more attacks on the Labour Party fueled by a fount of incidents recorded on social media followed by an insistence that Labour is institutionally antisemitic. Elements of the press are very active in unearthing any hint of antisemitism in the party and it seems a lifetime ago since Ed Milliband's father was attacked by the Daily Mail as a Jewish Marxist who hated Britain. Now, that same newspaper features stories attacking Jeremy Corbyn as an antisemitic with devastating frequency.

It has to be said that some of these reports are disturbing and need to be explained and it would be a welcome move for the party to look seriously at each claim as it emerges. We have a disciplinary process that is being used against those who make racist comments and as a democratic party this should apply to all. It is to be hoped that satisfactory answers will be forthcoming but unless that process is followed then the slur will remain.

Kvetchers or gerekhtfartikt protestors

It is appropriate to use the Yiddish word kvetcher because I read that it has been adopted into the English language. A perfect word to ........... well the Jewish Chronicle puts it best:

Jewish Chronicle definition of the Yiddish word, "kvetch" published in 2009

 ".............. or, he managed to kvetch antisemitic implications from a perfectly harmless statement."

and the gerekhtfartikt element means "justified".

Thinking about the obvious escalation of protest aimed at the Labour Party I am most disquieted by the claim that antisemitism is now institutionalised within its sinews. As of May 2018 there are 552,000 Labour members and we are being accused of complicity in an organisation that finds antisemitism to be acceptable. That makes me feel very uncomfortable but is it true? The following video gives me some hope:

Labour Party video about the IHRA definition of antisemitism

As with all complex issues it is wise to separate out the constituent parts of the problem and deal with each in turn. To that end ......... there seem to be three elements:

  1. Not adopting the IHRA working definition of antisemitism and the resultant NEC Code of Conduct ...... the Labour definition.
  2. The complexities of Zionism and the right of people to self determination.
  3. Statements made by Labour MP's, councillors and other members that are antisemitic.
This would become a very long post if I tackled all three so in this post I'll start with the first one.

Not adopting the IHRA working definition of antisemitism and all that follows

The IHRA definition has been adopted by Labour but not with all of the subsequent examples that complete the package. It has to be said that the IHRA definition has not gained universal approval and there are many Jewish organisations and individuals who have doubts about it. Amongst those who voice their doubts is Moran Mandelbaum of Keele University who states, 

"Drawing on the IHRA definition without the problematic examples, the new code of conduct adopted by the Labour party is a step in the right direction." Why does he write this?

".............. focusing on anti-Semitism in an open society is an odd choice since the fight ought to be against racism in all shapes and forms rather than particular manifestations of hate/racism. Emphasising anti-Semitism might give the impression that there is a hierarchy of hatreds in which hate towards Jews supersedes all others. Are racist and violent acts towards BME in the UK and Europe, more broadly, less important?! There is no doubt room to define anti-Semitism and its uniqueness in historical, sociological and political analyses (see, for example, the work of Professor David Feldman). But defining anti-Semitism for legal purposes as a unique form of hatred is a dangerous path to take and may end up essentialising the figure of the Jew rather than dislodging it."

This brings me to something else that is troubling; the IHRA definition has no legal standing. It is not enshrined in British law as it is only advisory. The adoption of the IHRA definition can only be used within an organisation (such as the Labour Party or even the UK Government) in an advisory capacity. British Law regarding hate and racist crime is already very explicit as is evidenced by the  Police Hate Crime Operational Guidance.pdf  specifically from page 35 to page 38 where antisemitism is addressed: I will defer to those who are legally trained to say if this is adequate but this definition of antisemitism is the law of the land.

The Labour Party Code of Conduct - Antisemitism

I do wonder how many of us have read this: Labour code of conduct - antiseminism

The Guardian lined up a few unfortunates to review Labour's code of conduct  and it makes interesting reading. Rabbi Laura Janner-Klausner had me thinking when she commented,

Stating, for example, that the right to Jewish self-determination is fundamentally a racist endeavour is not legitimate criticism, but a denial to Jews of the same rights given to all other peoples – which I also want for Palestinians".

Turning to the Labour code of conduct to understand where she was coming from I found this:

12.     Article 1(2) of the 1948 UN Charter refers to respect for the principle of equal rights and self- determination of peoples”.  The Party is clear that the Jewish people have the same right to self-determination as any other people.  To deny that right is to treat the Jewish people unequally and is therefore a form of antisemitism.  That does not, of course, preclude considered debate and discourse about the nature or content of the right of peoples to self- determination.

I ended up having a very pleasant exchange of emails with her but I still cannot see what it is in
the code of conduct that treats Jewish people differently or makes any claim that this is a racist
endeavour. Am I missing something here. One thing I did gain from contacting her was a link to 
an interesting organisation - Reform Judaism. Following that link takes you to a page reporting on
an article by Rabbi Dr Jonathan Romain in the Independent British Jews, please do not abandon 

In conclusion

We could have avoided all of this if we had just followed the example of the Tories .......... just say that you are adopting the IHRA definition (Teresa May in 2016) then produce a rule book that makes no mention of it nor once mention the word"antisemitism". .

I urge you to explore theories being put forward as to why the IHRA definition is being promoted, most noticeably by alternative Jewish news sources but first read this: Poland - Israel accord on holocaust law. Read that article and then imagine that it is Corbyn and not Netanyahu who has entered into an agreement that many have dubbed holocaust denial. 

Labour's code of conduct on antisemitism was drawn up under the direction of NEC member Jennie Fornby. An appreciation of this work can be found here: An article by Brian Klug on the Open Democracy UK website. I liked this quote:

"Ironically, it is the drafters of the Labour party’s NEC Code, not their critics, who have grasped the meaning of ‘working definition".

This post has been written a few hours after the ex chief Rabbi stated in an interview:

“The recently disclosed remarks by Jeremy Corbyn are the most offensive statement made by a senior British politician since Enoch Powell’s 1968 ‘rivers of blood’ speech.” 

We should give him time to reconsider that remark .......... perhaps after he has had a chance to read Peter Walker's response in the Guardian

Sunday, 5 August 2018

Why are there no trains in Derby this summer?

Belper train passengers will already be aware of the engineering works in Derby Station this summer and the bad news is that it will be getting worse before it gets any better. London trains reduced to one an hour (then none for seven days), No trains to Chesterfield or Sheffield, No Cross Country trains to north or south, the Matlock train only runs to Derby (later, no service at all for over a month). For detailed information about dates and bus replacements go to

Travel in 1850 (Old Station at Derby, North Midland Railway)

Cuthbert Hamilton Ellis (1909–1987)

National Railway Museum

So why is this happening?

Derby Station was opened in 1839 as the southern terminus of the North Midland Railway linking Leeds, Rotherham, Chesterfield and Derby (Sheffield was added soon after). Since that time railway routes and services have developed to a degree that would be unrecognisable to the early railway pioneers; Derby station growing to accommodate the extra traffic with additional platforms and tracks. Unfortunately, all this growth created a bottleneck to the south of the station, a two track section through which all passenger and many freight trains had to run (marked on the diagram below with a black circle). It is the elimination of this bottleneck and the installation of modern signalling that is being undertaken this summer.

To understand this bottleneck I have marked the 3 distinctive routes and services as:

  • Red = Cross Country services running southwest to northeast.
  • Brown = Services that run between Nottingham and Birmingham (reversing in Derby)
  • Green = East Midlands trains serving London, Chesterfield and Sheffield.
  • The Matlock <> Newark and the Derby <> Crewe trains have been omitted  to aid clarity.

If all goes to plan the work will be completed by 7th October with all trains running normally from the following day. The new layout separates the three principal routes at the southern end of the station which will have a major, beneficial effect on timekeeping and capacity. Passengers will find that their trains may well be routed through different platforms:

  • Red: Cross Country trains will now use platforms 1 and 2.
  • Brown: Nottingham <> Birmingham trains will use platforms 3 and 4
  • Green: East Midlands London <> Sheffield trains using platforms 5 and 6 but it should be noted that what has become platform 5 was formally platform 6. Platform 6 is now located on the newly built island platform. (The old platform 5 was a south facing bay platform that has now been taken out of use). 
  • Matlock train: There seems to be no reason why the arrival in Derby should not be on the new platform 6 but the train to Matlock may well be moved from platform 2b to 3, 4 or 5 Time will tell.
  • Freights will no doubt continue to be threaded through the station using the most favourable route at that time but we will no longer see freights from the north destined for the Birmingham route being looped on the Pride Park side of the station.

A wasted opportunity to electrify the route

The original intention was to electrify the East Midlands route through Derby during this blockade, in time for the St.Pancras to Sheffield services to change to electric trains by Autumn 2019. The governments cancellation of this scheme is particularly galling. The blockade would have been an ideal time to electrify the route up to Ambergate but now this will not happen.

I have heard it said that heritage problems such as the bridges at Belper were a deciding factor in the cancellation but this was not so (previous BelperStuff post on why the East Midlands electrification was cancelled). There are many ways in which the railway could have been electrified through Belper and Ambergate with no undo expenditure or adverse effect on heritage assets. What a wasted opportunity.


Don't forget:

  • No direct trains to London between 13th and 19th August (bus to East Midlands Parkway from Derby station) otherwise it's one train per hour up to October 7th.
  • Matlock train does not run to Nottingham and worse, does not run at all from 25th August to October 7th (again a substitute bus service)
  • No rail services between Derby and Nottingham, Crewe, Birmingham, Sheffield until 2nd September (yup you've guessed it - replacement buses)
Hopefully I've made no mistakes and all the above information is accurate but don't forget that reliable updates on travel ca be gleaned from East Midlands Trains here or go to National Rail Enquiries.

Friday, 13 July 2018

The labyrinth of planning ......... and a way out of it

The Minotaur surprised while eating
Maggi Hambling - Tate
I know this may seem stupid but I am starting to feel really sorry with all those involved with the AVBC attempts to produce a viable Local Plan .......... from the understaffed planning department to obviously befuddled responsible councillors .... oh and not forgetting the large number of Amber Valley residents who make their views known at hearings and through the consultation process. It brings to mind the Labyrinth in which the Minotaur was trapped; constantly revisiting passageways that never led to freedom. Does that sound like the AVBC Local Plan process? Ah yes, the beast of planning, never sure of what it is trying to do nor how to do it. I draw this allusion because of the maze that AVBC now inhabits (hopefully there is no need to apologise for including Maggi Hamblings wonderful painting - - that's how I see the current impasse).

It just gets worse : AVBC's Local Plan Inspector's note July 2018

Timetable chart extract from Inspector's note
So the hearings will resume just around the time that AVBC staff will be organising an election in 15 wards ................ but there are serious doubts that they will be able to redraft their plan by April'May 2019. What AVBC is attempting is a complete rewrite of the Local Plan so many factors have to be considered; not least because the inspector wrote:

"The process of identifying and proposing additional sites for housing and other uses should be carried out in an open and transparent way, using an appropriate methodology which objectively considers and assesses the reasonable alternatives. The Council should set out clearly its reasons for selecting the reasonable alternatives chosen, which should then be subject to an equal examination. This would be best achieved by the production of an Addendum to the Sustainability Appraisal (SA).

 With regards to the submitted SA, although I acknowledge, for instance, that it is important to take into account additional information that may be available in respect of a site which is the subject of a current planning application, this should not be at the expense of a site which does not have the benefit of further detailed supporting evidence. In cases such as this, the Council should consider the possibility of similar provision being made on the other site or sites in order that the reasonable alternatives are assessed on an equal basis". (that second paragraph is a killer)

There is considerable cause for concern as they have been basing the housing forecasts on pre-existing planning applications and it would be prudent to assume that the green belt assessment will follow this pattern, a re-assessment of hitherto rejected planning applications to develop land such as AVA/2017/0322 which proposed 185 homes on 10.6 hectares of green belt land off Crich Lane in 2017.  (more on planning application AVA/2017/0322 go here)

A pertinent question would be, "how many rejected applications to build on green belt land could be referenced by AVBC?"

Back to the positive

Pinglewick village at the end of Acorn Drive in Belper. Admittedly built in the 1970's on a green field site.
The boxed in area is 0.1477 hectares containing 65 dwellings with a density of dwellings per hectare of over 400.
You can find a video of the developer describing the construction of Pinglewick here.

We discussed in a previous blog post that a better way forward for AVBC would be to assess how much development could be undertaken on brownfield sites ............ using as an example the work undertaken or commissioned by the NP4B team. This prompted a thought ........ just how many hectares of brownfield locations were included in the AVBC brownfield site register?  The answer, after a simple totting up (didn't even have to take my socks off) is 149.36 hectares. Which leads on to how many dwellings could be built on these brownfield sites:

Yes of course not all of the sites would be suitable for housing or at appreciable densities but as the target number of homes in Amber Valley is 9,770 there is a fair degree of leeway ........... especially as there are a considerable number of windfall and other large housing developments that have been built since 2011. The Office of National Statistics (ONS) lists 56,130 households paying council tax in 2016 whereas in 2011 there were 52,596 ............ an increase of 3,534 though how many of these extra dwellings are counted towards the Local Plan target is a moot point (a development below a certain number of houses is not "statistically" relevant ... apparently). If we assume an incremental increase of 700 homes per year of which a conservative third or 233 can be counted as part of the Local Plan target then by now (mid-summer 2018) the target has dwindled to somewhere around 8,200. If these calculations were acceptable to the inspector then there would seem to be enough brownfield site capacity in Amber Valley to match the target. If, as would seem sensible, the Local Plan end date was adjusted (2011 - 2028 = 17 years) to 2035 then we could assess the true value of brownfield sites for years to come. No need for development of green belt or green field land.

A further look at densities

We should also note that densities above 80 are achievable on some sites as per these two examples:

  • Belper East Mill development proposal is over 600 dwellings per hectare so renovation of existing though moribund industrial premises offer significant advantages.
  • Pinglewick is over 400 dwellings per hectare.
Examples of acceptable housing densities can be found here in an Architect's Journal article - Planning Suburban Housing Density and three informative graphics from that publication are copied below:

35 dwellings per hectare

50 dwellings per hectare

80 dwellings per hectare
A cautionary note is that two extant planning applications for local brownfield development sites, the Arbru site in Milford and Derwent Street North in Belper were for density of dwellings per hectare of 22 and 26 respectively. There is obviously a lot of scope for the council to be in discussion with developers and funding bodies in an attempt to unlock the potential of our derelict brownfield sites.