High Peak Borough Council’s local plan – and with it, the future of the housing greenfield site off Macclesfield Road, Whaley Bridge – are back in the melting pot. On Tuesday night (18 March), a marathon meeting of debate and votes on the plan ended dramatically in disarray.
Whaley Bridge’s greensite, known as C9 in the local plan, was voted on at one stage. A proposal to delete C9 from the plan was defeated by just one vote, 18-17.
But it was another site, C14 in Laneside Road, New Mills, which triggered disarray for the local plan. A vote on this was tied, and the Mayor of High Peak, Cllr Tony Kemp, who chaired the meeting, cast his vote in favour of the New Mills site being withdrawn from the plan. This meant the local plan, as presented, could not be approved.
Kevin Worthington, chair of the campaign group Whaley Bridge Matters, witnessed the night’s events unfold, and emailed colleagues after midnight: “The fight goes on!”
He commented: “It is clear to all that building houses in the numbers proposed, is not sustainable in the High Peak. It’s time that our elected members made this clear to the government.”
The long debate had been good-natured, but frustration finally spilled over. A voice from the 30-strong Whaley Bridge protest group called out to Cllr Godfrey Claff, executive member for regeneration: “You’re hearing, but you’re not listening.”
The one vote rejection of an amendment to delete C9 from the plan was a ‘they think it’s all over’ moment. People began to drift away after nearly three hours of debate. Then came the dramatic end to the night, over the New Mills site, C14. In that plan, 47 houses had been pencilled in. There had been protests over the Laneside Road site, as at Whaley Bridge. Objections totalled 140, with ‘other’ views 2.
Claff: council was forced down a route by government
Cllr Claff, a member of the ruling Labour party, in a speech seeking support for the whole local plan, said the government was forcing the council down a route it did not want to take. The local plan was for 360 new houses a year – “we have no more sites.”
He added: “If we removed even one site, we’d have an unsound plan. With no planning policy, we would be helpless. Residents would have no protection from rapacious developers.”
Cllr Claff said it would be ‘grandstanding’ to take sites out of the plan. He added: “There is no option. The government has put us in a box.”
Applause for our local councillors
Two Whaley Bridge councillors were applauded for their statements. Cllr David Lomax (Lib Dem) spoke about the landscape