Guest Column: Cllr Ben Bellamy

Last Saturday was a special day for the people of Belper, and indeed the whole of the Derwent Valley. But as we celebrated the 15th anniversary of the Derwent Valley World Heritage Site, a tangible cloud hung over the very well attended celebration at Strutts.

Whilst the building was filled with stalls and groups who all contribute to keeping our heritage alive, hundreds of people enthusing together and appreciating what makes our town and setting special, again we are fighting very real threats to our UNESCO World Heritage Status.

The inclusion of Bullsmoor and Belper Lane again in the draft local plan is foolhardy in the extreme. With our factories closing, and brownfield sites abundant, then clearly the sites identified by the ‘Belper Neighbourhood plan’ after an independent housing needs assessment, would be far more suitable, and should be adopted instead. A petition is circulating the town for the Borough to do just that and, if you agree, it can be signed electronically here http://bit.ly/2mDnkGA. Should these sites not be removed from the plan then I will attempt to use an amendment to do so.

The arguments from Belper Conservative councillors that the sites must be included so that we can later rule them out show an apparently worrying lack of understanding of the danger that we are now in of losing our world heritage status, a status that we should be embracing as we turn from a manufacturing town to a tourist town. Inclusion in the draft plan will give succour to the developers who currently have applications to turn cheap agricultural land into expensive building land, at the cost of potentially losing the world heritage status. It’s also worth remembering that these are the same developers whose Director is Robert M Kirkland – Director and company secretary of Bullsmoor Developments Limited, Director of Bowmer and Kirkland who own Peveril Homes – who have an application for 150 houses on Bullsmoor, has donated £5000 to Amber Valley Conservative Association and £5000 to Mid Derbyshire Conservative Association.

Now donating to political parties is perfectly legal, so long as it is declared and on public record with the electoral commission, as these donations described above are, along with the other £53641 that Mr Kirkland has donated to the Conservative party. Some may argue that if election expenses are paid from these local parties, then a perceived conflict of interest could be said to exist. Others would say that there is nothing to see, and it is perfectly reasonable for wealthy individuals to make such donations without want of gain. I would argue that it would be sensible for any such donation to local parties to be declared where the developer may gain from decisions made by councillors who are members of those associations or local parties, in the interest of transparency. Electors will make up their own minds.

Cllr Ben Bellamy,

Labour, Belper North

Cllr Ben Bellamy

Ben Bellamy is a Labour Borough Councillor and Belper Town Councillor. He is Deputy Leader of Amber Valley Borough Council and has responsibility for the local plan.

3 thoughts on “Guest Column: Cllr Ben Bellamy

  • 18th March 2017 at 7:09 pm
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    I can bring to mind an incident at East Staffordshire Borough CouncilIn 1989/1990 where the leader of the Conservative Party was pushed out of office rather ignominiously as he had persuaded/cajoled his colleagues on the planning committee to overrule planning officer recommendations and approve development plans which were highly beneficial to his close friends who were developing the sites.
    He was caught and punished – I wonder how many others get away with it!!

    Reply
  • 19th March 2017 at 7:11 am
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    Since when has it been an ambition to become a “tourist town”, Belper can’t even get it’s act together to replace the River Gardens cafe. Belper is now largely a commuter town, that happens to be pretty in the centre but the outer residential areas are just the same as everywhere else.

    Bullsmoor is behind a factory (that is expanding as part of the development) and Belper Lane End is well out the way. 95% of Belper residents won’t even see these developments, so I can’t see how they could bother “tourists”.

    Reply
    • 22nd March 2017 at 7:28 am
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      James, you will have noticed two more major employers, Courtaulds and Abru, have recently closed. If we are to be more than a commuter town, these jobs need replacing. Our Unesco world heritage status gives us an opportunity to do this with jobs in the tourism industry, and the boost to the local economy that tourism brings. World heritage status has provided the area with 1.2 million in grants in the last few days.

      The import of these sites is that if we damage the world heritage site then we may lose that status, and the economic benefits that it brings.

      You are quite correct about the tea rooms – another vital project being worked on by a local group, but sadly underfunded by our councils with another c£200k required. Had the conservatives not wasted £1.6million on the field lane ‘leisure center that never was’ then we could have already had it up and running for a few years, and had the economic benefits that it would bring in regenerating the river gardens.

      Reply

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