Thursday, December 7, 2023

Opinion: “A Cloud Over Our Green Fields”

Today I would like to make clear my total support for Protect Belper’s campaign to protect our green fields and historic sites.

I have written to the Communities Secretary, Sajid Javid, explaining that they need protecting from developers who should be turning their eyes to former industrial land.

The people of Belper are rightly proud of the accolades which have been bestowed upon the town over recent years, notably the Best British High Street award.

The High Street complements the wonderful vista of green belt which surrounds the town. However, planning applications are still being submitted for those greenfield sites which, we should remember, are situated within the buffer zone of the Derwent Valley Mills World Heritage Site.

I am not surprised that residents are outraged and want action to prevent such developments.

One planning application for industrial development at Bullsmoor, which was originally rejected because it was situated within the World Heritage Site buffer zone, has now been resubmitted. In my letter to Mr Javid, I included comments from John Baldwin who is part of the Protect Belper campaign group which is trying to prevent this land from development. Mr Baldwin rightly highlights the ambiguity in the National Planning Policy Framework and I also agree with his assertion that there needs to be greater protection to Heritage assets.

The fact that developers are repeatedly submitting planning applications for these areas of land is causing anger in the local community and I strongly feel that the Government needs to step in. Obviously, I am aware that there is a National housing shortage but there are brownfield sites within the local area which could be utilised. Of course, there is no need for immediate alarm because the applications have yet to be approved but if developers are still trying to build on this land, there is a clear implication that they are not being dissuaded by clear government policy.

With this in mind, I have invited Mr Javid to visit Belper and the Derwent Valley Mills World Heritage Site so I can show him the area’s great beauty and historical importance. Hopefully, he will take me up on my offer and be prompted to issue clear edicts which will help us preserve these sites for many future generations.

I have been a passionate defender of the green belt during my time in parliament and last year pressed the Government on its plans for brownfield sites. In reply, the then minister for housing and planning, Brandon Lewis, said that, through the Housing and Planning Act 2016, planning permission in principle for brownfield registers was coming through and there was a £1.2 billion fund for starter homes, which was applicable to the brownfield sites. However, despite his insistence that the Government is pressing for applications on brownfield sites to be given greater weight, it appears the developers are not getting the message.

Until they do, there will remain a cloud over our green fields.

By Pauline Latham MP (Mid Derbyshire)

Claire Meese


6 thoughts on “Opinion: “A Cloud Over Our Green Fields”

  • Frank Smith

    Opinion: “A Cloud Over Our Town”

    I totally agree we should not be building upon our green fields, within the World Heritage Site or its buffer zone. However, nor should we be building houses upon the few commercial and industrial sites that remain. The focus on housing and nothing else is dangerous we will end up being nothing more than a dormitory of Derby. Every house built on this land results in between two and three cars trying to leave Belper in the morning and enter in the evening. How do I conclude that I can hear you asking; simple each new house on average brings more than one new car into Belper and each job lost requires one more car to drive out and I’m guessing one house probably equals more than one lost job!

    Further, our roads are pretty much saturated both the A6 and the A609 block up at the drop of a hat not just in the rush hours but at any time. How someone has not been killed on Bridge Street I do not know at some points the lorry mirrors almost brush the house walls. Try pushing a pushchair or even worse a wheelchair from the North Mill along Bridge Street to Kings Street.

    I did not agree with the Tesco proposal but it would potentially have provided relief to some of our traffic problems and would have provided some employment within the town. The reasons given by the Environment Agency for the relief road not being built are very poor and now the County Council have almost certainly cut off the route south of Derwent Street.

    Personally I think the area round Bridge Foot and by that I mean the whole of the original mills site should be designated a special zone with a very strong emphasis on tourism, including parking for car and buses. It could be the key site for the whole World Heritage Site. However, it needs investment and it needs to be managed as a special site. If done correctly the whole area could be reinvigorated by the development of that one site.

    Sadly I am looking out of my window at the empty East Mill as I type this.

  • Sohrab Panday

    Thank you for your support Pauline

    It is true the developers are immune to these very clear arguments about keeping off our green fields and heritage – are the government incentives impotent I wonder

    It is also sadly true that the Amber Valley Council and Planning Department are somewhat slow to disagree with the developers and would benefit from some guidance and encouragement from the government and the expert groups, The local people continuous and repeatedly voice their objections but it like trying to stop the tide coming in…which is simply wrong.

    Once again your support is appreciated.

  • I agree with points raised by the above commenter.

    Belper is a fabulous place and have some of the nicest people I’ve met as it’s resudents. However, the plans for Belper feel too focused on housing and is clearly losing businesses at an astonishing rate.

    Rather than turning industrial zones into housing, should be not be considering mixed types of uses for these sites?

    I’d hate to see all of the green land around Belper turn into houses but equally trying to turn Belper centre into ‘shops/cafes only’ is unsustainable and will bring about the demise of the town.

  • Michael Boot

    Can Mrs. Latham please submit this letter to AVBC as an actual objection to the latest development plan please. This letter only shows support for what we are all fighting.
    Mrs. Latham should actuall step up.

  • Ben Miller, Cllr Belper South Ward.

    Gary raises some very valid points regarding the future development of former industrial zones of which as a Town Councillor myself I totally agree with him.
    I do not want to see Belper become a commuter town and we should be supporting mixed developments on former brownfield sites to encourage business to the town and in turn support the local economy.
    This is the stance that the Town Council took with regards to the recent development on the former ABRU works, it was the Town Councils wish that the site be used for mixed development and made representations to AVBC to that effect.
    From BTC Minutes 11th April,
     AVA/2017/0374 – 136 houses on Derwentside Industrial Park . RESOLVED: To object to the application on the basis that it should be a mixed use development rather than purely residential. Delegated to the Planning Coordinators to settle the objection and submit to the Planning Authority.

    Unfortunately the developer pushed ahead for purely residential use, but rest assured that when future brown field sites come up for development I too will be looking for mixed use of those areas and not just housing.

  • maurice neville

    The AVBC planning committee voted in favour of the outline application at Bullsmoor. It seems that many Tories do not understand the importance of the World Heritage Site – including the Chair of Planning, whose casting vote ensured the approval.

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