Saturday, December 2, 2023

Opinion: “Now More So Than Ever Before We Need To Say Enough Is Enough”

I feel privileged to write on two subjects very close to my heart. Firstly my home Town of Belper and secondly the continued development within the Town which I and a great deal of other people believe could place our World Heritage Status in danger, and ultimately see it being lost

As a member of both Belper Town Council and Amber Valley Borough Council, I must stress that this article is purely my opinion and not that of the Local Authorities.

Where do I begin? With the planning board meeting held Monday 18 December. One of the items to be discussed was the proposed development on land situated off Belper Lane, a piece of land which lies within the World Heritage Site Buffer Zone, a Buffer Zone created to help protect and maintain our World Heritage Status. Belper was granted this status not just because of the Mill and the impact this building had on the world, and the whole Industrial Revolution, but a major part was that the settlement of the Town had grown whilst retaining its rural landscape. A unique, untouched rural landscape which once lost can never be replaced.

I listened to the officers report and listened to the speakers who went before me, the latter all giving very valid material grounds and reasons why this application should be refused, not wanting to go over the same ground twice I thought I would use a different approach, a more human ethical and moral reasoning. As a Councillor I believe we have a moral duty to listen to what the local people have to say, after all, in most cases they know the area far better than a Councillor from a neighbouring Parish or indeed the officer who’s job it is to deal with an application. I put this to members of the Board, my opinion is that Belper’s World Heritage Status isn’t something to be afraid of, isn’t a mill stone around the Borough’s neck when it comes to development, but something that we should be proud of, something that we should be shouting from the rooftops, something that if nothing else brings valuable income to the local economy.

The speakers that went before me and the 200 plus people that had submitted their objections are not nimbys, simply there to try and prevent development near their homes, these are people who are passionate about protecting this unique landscape,  passionate about protecting our Town’s heritage, passionate about ensuring that future generations have what we have today. I have said at a previous meeting that if this land was the habitat of a Giant Panda, a Tiger etc that a developer wanted to concrete over then people all around the world would be in uproar over it, and the eyes of the World would be watching, well the eyes of the world are watching, World Heritage means exactly what it says, World, places within that World that are so unique that they are, and need, protection.

Photo: Peter Amour – Citizens of Belper give passionate support to their speakers.

Unfortunately despite all the passion, the material planning grounds, our argument fell on deaf ears and the application was approved. Approved by Councillors from neighbouring Parishes. Approved by the absence of 2 Councillors who had left the meeting early for reasons I can only assume was that they were unhappy with an earlier decision. Both seemed quite well and were very vocal on issues surrounding their areas. Approved despite the total loss of a heritage asset etc etc etc I could go on, but most worrying is that this approval for 65 houses gives the developer a foothold on World Heritage Buffer Zone land, call me cynical if you want but I personally do not think that it will be long before we see subsequent applications on the remaining fields until the developer has achieved their ultimate goal of developing the whole area, this is despite several areas of land within the town having had planning permissions granted lying dormant.

Belper isn’t afraid of development, you only have to look at how the town has grown over the last 20 years or so, but in my opinion Belper has already done more than its share in the growth of the Amber Valley, and now more so than ever before we need to say enough is enough. Yes a developer’s money can buy a new classroom and a doctor’s consulting room but what it can’t buy is history, it can’t buy and it can’t replace Our Heritage.

Cllr Joe Booth

Belper North Ward

Images: Peter Amour

Claire Meese


7 thoughts on “Opinion: “Now More So Than Ever Before We Need To Say Enough Is Enough”

  • Cllr Ben Bellamy

    Just for the record, it was approved by 5 conservatives voting for, and this time conservative councillor Hillier voted for Labour councillors motion to reject – despite previously voting FOR the larger application on the site that is going to appeal, previously. Councillor Bull voted against Bullsmoor and Belper lane.

    Two had to leave as they were unable to vote due to not being on the site visit.

    Regardless, anyone who was there could see that the councillors voting for this application showed lack of interest – only one spoke at all , vice chair of planning, and he was an embarrassment – laughed at by almost everyone there.

    Either way, Joe spoke well, and with passion and clearly felt let down by his colleagues.

    I maintain that it was idiotic to the greatest degree to include Belper Lane in the local plan – all 6 conservatives in Belper voted for that – every Labour councillor against. I pleaded for it to be removed again after the last application was turned down. The leader of the Council, conservative Kevin Buttery, decided on his own to keep it in. Ultimately it is Councillor Buttery and his groups local plan that is responsible here.

  • Kim Kerry

    Well said Mr Booth

  • I agree entirely, well done for expressing what the majority of Belper residents think and standing up to the councillors who don’t have a clue what Belper people want. Why give world heritage if planners are going to ignore our beautiful town and build more houses on.

  • Lynne Christie

    I completely agree, this is a travesty. Why oh why are the people of Belper not listened to. Is it usual for developers to put in applications for a large amount of houses to be built knowing these would be turned down , then a second application for less houses which seems to be accepted or am I being cynical?

  • Nick

    Great piece. Where’s the challenge and scrutiny from the local media on this story? The Belper News is in a sorry state, stripped of the resources that could be used to pore over these planning developments. I hope that Nailed can step up to the mark. Why has the local authority OKd this plan when there are acres of undeveloped brownfield in the centre of town? Who were the two councillors and why did they bugger off before the crucial vote? Has the local authority done an analysis of the risk developments like this and (potentially) Bessalone might present to World Heritage Status?

  • don’t spoil Belper leave it alone was born there 73 years ago green fields galore look at it know, no more when its gone you cant get it back

  • Joanna Kirk

    The site in question is, in my opinion, one of the most beautiful in Belper with views of the Dalley Valley and panoramic views to the North and South, including the wonderful line of trees stretching North into the distance and reminding us of the steam trains which travelled North and West, a clean air equivalent for the farming folk of the trains of the Industrial Revolution.
    If Belper wants to encourage tourism to the town, and one can see by the craft shops and craft & food fairs that it does, then losing the Northern high point of our town to housing development is unbelievably shortsighted.
    Could it be that the “nimbys” were in fact the Councillors from neighbouring Parishes who approved the application.

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