Whaley Bridge people made their views known at a public meeting on 28 January into the Gladman Development plan for 107 houses on a greenfield site. Around 200 people crowded into the Uniting Church hall – many of them standing – and told two senior officers of High Peak borough council exactly what they thought of the Gladman plan for the Macclesfield Road/Linglongs Road site and what the council’s revised Local Plan should be like.
Speakers ranged from 15 year old schoolgirl Shannon Thomson to householders up in arms that so many new homes could be built just beyond their back doors. Shannon was applauded as she said. “Whaley Bridge would be getting too urban – wherever will we go for peace and quiet?”
The two officers facing a barrage of comments were Dai Larner, executive director for regeneration and Perry Wardle, regeneration manager. It was a bit ‘Christians and Lions’, except that there were only two ‘Christians’, the council officers and 200 ‘lions’ from Whaley Bridge. All were roaring the same message: “We don’t want the development, and we want the site removed from the Local Plan that the council has to put together for the government.”
Dai Larner openly said there was ‘reduced wriggle room’ for the council as they rejig the Local Plan under pressure. “The government has made it very clear that it is necessary to build houses – more than 400 a year in the High Peak.”
Mr Larner was challenged by one resident, who said the 2011 census showed that more people left Whaley Bridge than came in. The officer said they have to project into the future, to 2031, to make housing sites available.
Two senior teachers from the two primary schools – Fay Walton, head of Whaley Bridge school and Sue Lonsdale, deputy head of Taxal and Fernilee – said: “The schools are full to capacity. Where are new pupils going to go?”
Later, under pressure from speakers, Mr Larner said he would take on board what the head teacher had said. She shouted back: “I already know the school is full.”
Laughter relieved the mood temporarily when a speaker told of a meeting planners had with school representatives about 20 years ago, amid concerns over new housebuilding. “They said they were executive houses and they wouldn’t have children!”
Another speaker, a former officer of United Utilities, said the Macclesfield Road site was boggy and against government policy.
Cllr Barry Taylor urged people to send in their views to the borough council. A speaker said: “We did that last time and look what happened!”
Cllr Ron Bowden said: “We don’t need four and five bedroom houses. With people travelling down the A6 to Manchester. We need the infrastructure and affordable houses for local people.”
At nearly three hours, as people drifted away, occasional laughter broke the tension. The ‘Christians’ were still alive, taking their notes back to the office. Whaley Bridge says No. And the ‘lions’ were ready to sleep, but not before they had sent their emails of protest to the borough council.
- The deadline for the public to send views on the Local Plan is 10 February. Respond by email to LDF@highpeak.gov.uk or write to Regeneration, High Peak Borough Council, Town Hall, Buxton SK17 6EL. The revised Local Plan will be completed by the end of March, with a further opportunity for consultation. The final Plan goes to the government in July.