The NEDDC Local Plan is currently under scrutiny by Independent Planning Inspector Sarah Housden. She has now produced her Interim Report and the Council has put out a press release in response.
The Interim Report suggests that there will be Main Modifications necessary for the Local Plan to be found sound.
At the Hearings held in November and December, the Civic Society joined forces with the Dronfield Greenbelt Residents Group to present evidence regarding whether the Plan met the exceptional circumstances test necessary to make any changes to the Green Belt. We put forward that there were errors within the Green Belt Review which had initially assessed parcels as robustly meeting Green Belt purposes; yet they were subsequently allocated for housing. The spatial strategy of the Plan also came under scrutiny as well as a weak Infrastructure Plan.
In the Report, the Inspector seeks further clarity regarding why and how the figure of 50% for housing allocations in the four main towns and Strategic Sites came about. She suggests that alternatives have not been tested.
The Callywhite Lane ‘Regeneration Area’ is to be removed from the employment allocations table until there is more evidence relating to the impact of HS2. This reduces employment land area in the Plan by 6 hectares but does not necessarily impact on the soundness of the Plan.
In terms of the Green Belt allocations, the Inspector concludes that exceptional circumstances have not been demonstrated to justify the alteration of the Green Belt boundaries on sites DR2 (Eckington Road) and EC1 (Eckington) and DR1 (Shakespeare Crescent) in its entirety. This is good news in terms of the protection of the Moss Valley Conservation Area as well as reducing the overall number of houses allocated to Dronfield. The Inspector has indicated that specific access arrangements need to be identified before the planning application stage in order to assess the deliverability of the DR1 site and the PRoW across the site is also referenced.
In terms of Infrastructure, the Inspector wants clarity about the cost and deliverability of the improvements to the junction at the bottom of Green Lane as this will need to be judged against developer contributions and therefore impact the viability of any development. As yet there is no mention about the implications for local schools or medical facilities.
As two Green Belt sites have to be removed and one site is reduced in size, this means that the Council hasn’t a five year land supply over the plan period. The Inspector has given the Council two options to consider. It is likely that sites will be identified for years 6-10 and only where possible for years 10-15. The other option is to identify replacement sites which will delay the Examination as there would need to be further consultation, sustainability appraisal and Habitats Regulations assessment. To read more click here.
To read the latest press release from the Dronfield Civic Society and Dronfield Green Belt Residents’ Group, please click here.