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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.

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High Peak Borough Council published the latest consultation exercise in the creation of a new Local Development Framework on March 26th this year. Published jointly with Derbyshire Dales District Council, the Joint Core Strategy can be viewed and commented upon online.

HPBC’s latest press release makes it plain that the central thrust of the report is to implement the ridiculous housing targets imposed by the Government of the East Midlands, which we remarked on in November 2008. Whilst the document also deals with plan for other important areas such as Transport, Retail, Environment and Climate Change, the Housing section is the largest and will facilitate massive sections of the Greenbelt and Countryside in the High Peak to be handed over to developers.

Before the consultation ends, we plan to express our views on this matter and we would urge all those who are concerned about the future of the High Peak to also respond. The deadline for responses is Thursday 21st May 2009.

As you are probably aware, by far the greater part or High Peak is in the Peak District National Park (PDNP). If we are to defend our countryside, we have to respond not only to High Peak LDF Core Strategy consultations but also to those of the Peak District National Park. Bear in mind that the Peak Park is a Planning Authority in its own right.

The current PDNP consultation is the second in the their Development Plan Process (DPP). and is referred to as the Core Strategy Refined Options Consultation. It can be accessed here.

Once on this page, to comment on the consultation document rather than just read it, you have to register as a consultee. However that is no big deal. Just click on ‘Login/Register’ at the top right of the page and follow your nose. This kind of thing is witlessly boring, we know, but a lot less time- consuming than responding to the consultation by writing a letter or an email (both of which are also possible). Again, the pay-off is worth the effort. You become one of a relatively small number of people whose opinions will influence the future planning policy of the National Park. Like it or not, the future is to those who use the internet most effectively!

The closing date for the consultation is 10th April 2009 (next Friday). Obviously just respond on matters that interest you. There is no obligation to respond to all the issues raised.

Possibly the most immediate and important matters that we need to address are under ‘Transport’ in chapter 8 of the consultation document. In particular we need to make our views known on the following issues:

T2 –  The demand for new road schemes to accommodate current and future levels of traffic growth, and

T3 –  The adverse impact of traffic

To secure the National Park for the future, the PDNP Authority needs strong and unambiguous policies in these areas. This is primarily because there is still pressure for a motorway or its equivalent across the northern end of the Park. This pressure has been whipped up entirely by Tameside Metropolitan Borough Council (TMBC) in conjunction with some shadowy business interests, to serve the dream of never-ending economic growth. TMBC has pushed hard for the Mottram-Tintwisle A628 bypass as a step towards its goal of a second transpennine motorway. This proposed bypass goes through a Nature Reserve (on stilts!) and a section of the Park. It destroys countryside, the natural beauty of the landscape, the flora and fauna of the Park, increases atmospheric pollution and fosters yet further reliance on road transport. The last official estimate puts its cost at £315 million. It achieves nothing for local people that would not be better served by a HGV ban on the A628. Such bans have worked well elsewhere. Thanks to the efforts of ‘Save Swallows Wood’ (a group campaigning to save the nature reserve), the CPRE and (latterly) the PDNP itself and Natural England, as well as many other activists, the proposal is in its death throes. Unfortunately it may well reincarnate in one new form or another.

That is why we should be considering supporting the following options (which are not mutually exclusive):

T2.3 – resist all new road schemes in the National Park, save in exceptional circumstances (you can harden the option if you like)

T2.4 – remove all ‘in principle’ support for any already proposed or new road in the National Park – including the Tintwistle relief road

T2.7 – research an environmental levy; investigate a Park-wide weight limit of 7.5t and improved public transport in order to relieve Tintwistle of its traffic problems, and

T3.5 – investigate the park-wide 7.5t weight limit

We hope you spend a few moments of your time to respond to the consultation.