Earlier this year High Peak ran a joint consultation on the Core Strategy for its Local Development Framework with Derbyshire Dales. Clearly, at least in the area of Housing, it is not happy with the results. What the Borough planners were hoping for and did not get from the consultation were clear indications from residents that they accepted the need for 6000 new houses to be built in High Peak [outside of the National Park] and a definite opinion as to where they should go.  These they did not get because the majority of people do not see the justification for this amount of development and are not prepared to pay the price in the destruction to their environment. Residents were not asked how much new housing they were prepared to accept overall in High Peak and therefore, quite correctly, were not prepared to say where it should go.

This leaves our planners with a problem. The Core Strategy document will eventually go to a public inquiry. The Inspector will approve it only if High Peak can show that it has solid grounds for the policies that it backs. If the Inspector decides that the support expressed by the public for a particular policy is too weak then he may reject the document. In that case, the Authority would have to go through the laborious process of producing a new document.

So what is High Peak’s answer to this problem? It is to ignore the fact that nobody wants the proposed level of new housing and to ask the same question all over again, ‘Where do you want all these new houses to go?’ This is the sole issue addressed in the new consultation touted in its press release of  24 August, ‘Your Say On New Housing’.

But why should we respond to this when we were given no say in how much new housing should be built in the first place? The demand for 6000 new housing units by 2026 has been laid upon the Borough by the East Midlands Regional Government. The figure was cooked up ‘behind closed doors’ essentially without the involvement of the public, making a mockery of Central Government’s supposed commitment to a policy of  increased local democracy.

Many members of the Council are very unhappy with the figure. Linda Baldry, the Executive member for Planning, in an earlier press release [13 Nov 2008], commented that to meet the target [in one place] would require a new town the size of Whaley Bridge and Chapel put together.

Again, recently, a Councillor told the Glossop Chronicle,

‘Until a short time ago, Glossop was already over its housing quota. Then the government moved the goal posts…. He added with regard to the 1,300 new homes [the target for Glossopdale] “Where will we put them? There are only the hills left. Glossop is already grid-locked with traffic, just think how many extra cars 1,300 homes could come up with.’

But apparently we have moved on from last November when Linda Baldry felt free to say what she felt. The Councillor who spoke to the Chronicle only on condition that he remained anonymous. What on Earth is going on here? Seemingly, Council Officials are trying to gag our representatives in order to smother opposition to the new housing targets. Why are we employing officials who stifle our representatives in order to push through a policy on which we were not consulted, is not in our interests and to which we did not agree? If our Councillors are not free to speak their minds then there is no chance of our opinions receiving a fair hearing. If all our Councillors are allowed to do is to play a role in a pantomime then the only honest thing they can do is to resign.

The best course of action that High Peak [and Derbyshire Dales] Councils could take in this situation is to have the courage tell the East Midlands Regional Government that they do not accept the housing targets that it has handed down to them. Furthermore if new ones are to be set it should be with the full participation of the people of the Peak District on the basis of criteria agreed by them.