Standing Room Only: Community Mobilises To Oppose Housing Plans

Many had walked the half mile or so up the hill from their Mount Pleasant homes in atrocious weather conditions to pack into St Faith’s, the community centre at Belper Lane End. There were more than 150 in attendance – standing room only and queueing out the door. They had come to mobilise their opposition to Wheeldon Brothers’ plans to build 150 dwellings on fields off Belper Lane and above Whitehouse Rise.

Land above Whitehouse Rise
Land off Belper Lane above Whitehouse Rise

Residents had been called to arms by Paul Terry, the local activist who had lead the campaign to save the Bull’s Head and assisted by Linda Marks who had already been digging into records to find relevant information and Jenny Oldknow building a contacts list and sorting out leaflet distribution. At the top table were Councillors Ben Bellamy and Joe Booth, Eric Johnson from Amber Valley Planning, Dave Fisher from the Neighbourhood Plan for Belper Steering Group and Anne Smith who had been involved in successful battles with developers in Lincolnshire.

This was a chance to put forward ideas to fight the plans and clarify what would be valid objections once a planning application is submitted. There was a call for all the groups fighting potential development in Belper to unite to form a single united front that was more able to raise funds, employ planning experts and mobilise the community than several similar, but smaller, groups.

Those present were asked not to respond to Wheeldon Brothers in detail. Jackie Knight posted on Facebook that at this stage the committee asks that you:

  • Simply state that you object to the proposal, without further detail. …and email your objection to

The campaign Facebook page is but if you are not a Facebook user and wish to be kept informed drop a line with your contact details to Jenny Oldknow, 56 Pinewood Road, Belper.

Paul Terry, Dave Fisher and Cllr Ben Bellamy

The proposed site is in the Derwent Valley Mills World Heritage Site buffer zone and it was stressed time and again that should any housing proposal on green field sites within the WHS be approved it would set a precedent and open the floodgates that would ultimately lead to the loss of World Heritage Site status and a devastating impact on tourism locally.

The role of the Neighbourhood Plan was also reiterated, particularly by Dave Fisher. Belper residents need to play a big part in deciding where new housing should go and references were made to vacant brownfield sites, the almost derelict East Mill and the mess that is Derwent Street – where planning permission has been granted but nothing is happening. There are other brownfield sites throughout Amber Valley that should be built on before recourse to green fields.

You can take part in the Neighbourhood Plan process by logging on to or emailing

There was also a feeling that Belper had provided more than its fair share of new housing: the population of Belper increased by 28.6% between 1991 and 2011 compared with a slight decrease in Alfreton (-0.3%), and smaller increases in Ripley (+5.5%) and Heanor (+15.6%). The overall figure for Amber Valley was 9.2%. between 2011 and 2014 there were 694 new houses built in Amber valley and 378 of them (54%) were in Belper.

At the end of the meeting those interested in forming a small committee were asked to remain and, as people departed into the pouring rain, they were asked to make a contribution to help towards the costs of leaflets. If you would like to contribute please send to Jenny Oldknow at the address above.

By David George

David George

Former Editor of Derby's CAMRA Magazine Community Affiliations: Belper Goes Green Founder, Transition Belper

2 thoughts on “Standing Room Only: Community Mobilises To Oppose Housing Plans

  • 26th August 2016 at 12:54 pm

    There’s the real risk now of a classic misplanning “doughnut effect” happening in Belper, with the historic centre being increasingly neglected and brownfield sites overlooked in favour of more and more piecemeal greenfield suburban developments with all the pressures they bring.

    There is so much space available in the decaying mills complex (North, East and now sadly also the Courtaulds factory site) plus the Thornton’s factory site, the still-empty Silkolene factory building and even that bit off the Field Lane car park once earmarked for a leisure centre. While if the Babington Hospital closes, conversion to housing would be an obvious option there. Of course there are complex issues surrounding all these, and people are working towards solutions – but it’s frustrating for everyone when the problem is so evident, while developers circle the edges of town, looking for any sign of weakness.

    Housing developers always prefer green fields because they are easy and profitable to build on. Once the fields are gone – the setting for the town – they are gone for good. But in a World Heritage Site especially, building on fields should be flatly forbidden until the available brownfield space in the centre – and in other towns in the area – is taken up. More and more dormitory suburbs are not the answer.

  • 26th August 2016 at 8:37 pm


    Couldn’t put it as well as you have – absolutely spot on.

    Cllr Ben

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