MEMBERS of Ashbourne’s planning committee have voted unanimously in favour of future housing development being steered towards the derelict Ashbourne airfield site.
Around 20 speakers took advantage of an invitation by Derbyshire Dales District Council to stand up and put their views to planners ahead of their public decision, which was made on Wednesday at Queen Elizabeth’s Grammar School in Ashbourne.
Points put across by the speakers reflected the public mood during the consultation into the formulation of the district council’s draft local plan, which saw more than 90 per cent of respondents picking the airfield as their favourite option for future development.
Among the speakers appealing to committee members at the meeting was Peter Fox, speaking on behalf of Ashbourne Aware and the Campaign to Protect Rural England.
During his allocated three minutes of speaking time, Mr Fox stressed that the members overturn a recommendation by planning director Paul Wilson not to give the airfield site top priority when finding room to accommodate 400 houses as part of the district council’s future housing obligations.
He told members: “You are being asked tonight to endorse a recommendation that could see the destruction of acre upon acre of green fields around our precious town, and you don’t need to. Instead you could launch a flagship redevelopment project.
“We need you to show leadership tonight. Please, search your conscience and deliver your duty to the people you represent.” He also argued Mr Wilson’s point that developer access to the site could not be made in the required five years by pointing out that an entire bomber base had been built on the land in just nine months.
He added: “District councils all over the country, and even today the planning minister himself, are facing fierce protests at the potential destruction of green land.
“They would give their eye teeth for the brownfield opportunity that you have. You can create a truly sustainable community, in line with the NPPF, with access to work, facilities, transport and green spaces, with room for buffer zones and expanding Industry.
All on a brownfield site.” Also among the speakers pushing for a higher priority to be given to the airfield site, over recommended favourite green field plots off Old Derby Road and Wyaston Road, was 16-year-old QEGS pupil Eleanor Wright, who pointed out that members were deciding on her future and the future of her generation’s children.
During discussion among members Derbyshire County Council leader Andrew Lewer proposed that it be moved from its recommended Priority Two, to priority one in the forthcoming draft local plan. A motion that was unanimously voted in.
Quicker decisions followed to vote against Mr Wilson’s recommendation that the site adjacent to Old Derby Road and land at Leys Farm, of Wyaston Road be first priorities and members agreed they would be ranked third in the order.
A site at Hillside Farm in Wyaston Road that could accommodate 161 houses was moved from Mr Wilson’s suggested Priority Three status to Priority Two, despite concerns over only part of the site being suitable.
And a patch of land north of Cavendish Drive and east of Derby Road, which was not part of the initial stage of consultation but will be included in future engagement, was moved from its recommended Priority Two status to Priority Four, the lowest available.
Priority One sites must be developable within five years and members must be satisfied that ‘key development criteria’ including highway impact, flood risk and infrastructure considerations are suitable.
At the other end of the scale, Priority Four sites are considered to be undesirable in all aspects of their potential for development.
The preferred development site on the airfield will now be given favour as the district council moves towards the next stages of formulating a draft local plan, which is due to be discussed again in the new year.
The local plan is a strategy that local authorities are being encouraged to adopt as they assess potential ways of meeting Government housing targets that require them to find sites for development between 2006 and 2028.