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The recent clash between High Peak Borough Council (HPBC) and Tom Levitt is of particular interest to Keep High Peak Green because it demonstrates the usual weaknesses in Tom Levitt’s arguments.

HPBC’s position is that the saturation point has been reached with housing. The Council has been meeting new onerous housing quotas for as long as living memory, and having decided enough was enough imposed a “moratorium” on new build except for affordable housing. They consider the latest ratcheting up of target figures by the Government of the East Midlands as incompatible with preserving the character of High Peak. Anyone who cares about the environmental quality of this area would certainly agree.

Tom Levitt claims more housing is wanted to meet the housing waiting list but he appears to refuse to look at empty housing in the borough though there is plenty enough to see. This suggestion is repeatedly made yet he shows no signs of looking at the option. The welter of unoccupied properties undermines his argument. He gives the impression of only being interested in new development and happy to see housing stretching into the distance and the future as far as the eye can see.

When he condemns the Council’s concern at targets imposed until 2026 and then soon after to 2036 for over 300 new houses per annum (excluding windfall sites) the MP’s position is that they are selfishly failing to recognise the local housing needs of the Borough. However the truth of the matter is that the government quotas are based as much on projections of inward migration to the area as they are on meeting local need. So this is a cynical distortion of facts to apply a false moral pressure on the Council whilst they are simply recognising that planning should not exclude factors such as quality of life and the environment.

Additionally we wonder how the list represents verifiable current need, and not just past data. Is it regularly reviewed and updated by Mr Levitt we wonder, or simply trotted out to keep recalcitrant councils on board for more housing.

Worse still, the Government, supported by Mr Levitt, hands out taxpayer cash incentives to the Council to find land for this excessive housing, which means effectively that planning applications are not decided through a balanced consideration of the issues involved but are rushed through to secure this financial bounty. How can this be other than an abuse of planning process? Yet in the last financial year, Council Planners gained a government pay-off of £250,000 by railroading through applications in the teeth of furious local opposition. They even issued a self-congratulatory Press Release on the subject.

What an extraordinary way to “plan” the environment; but really who in High Peak can see much evidence of “planning” as opposed to wholesale running after short term gain whatever the consequences? But it is the government supported by Tom Levitt that is responsible for this.

Typical of Mr Levitt’s approach is his refusal to concede that people need amenity space to simply live, that there is more to living than being crammed into little boxes without social space. For example at Lambgates, Hadfield, Tom has been vociferous in criticising a Village Green Application that simply confirmed that land designated for amenity should remain as such and not be reallocated as a high density housing block, placing intolerable further demand on overstretched local services and infrastructure.

On this occasion, irrespective of the Planning Department’s no doubt financially incentivised support of Mr Levitt’s position , the Development Control Committee unanimously threw out the application with very good reason. The public recognition by the current council that enough is enough, and that the area has shouldered more than its fair share of the housing burden in current years is also welcome.

The problem remains with Tom Levitt’s one dimensional approach to housing and planning, where money is placed between an application and the fair consideration of the issues involved. This is perhaps characteristic of his masters within the Labour Party, with their interest in reforming Planning with a new Bill to exclude the public from a say in major infrastructure decisions. This narrow, almost blind approach to a sensitive issue can only do irremediable harm, and the fact that it very much government policy backed up by publicly acknowledged financial pay-offs to local services only makes things worse, and shows what a grim situation we are in.

Keep High Peak Green will give every support to the Council in its resistance to these measures to impose excessive housing in an environmentally fragile area that borders a National Park. The consequences for our national heritage otherwise can only be disastrous. Mr Levitt and his peers must be made to think again and justify their position more carefully.

If you care about the future of the High Peak now seriously under threat and want to know more about KHPG you can contact us at our website.


We have today written to the Glossop Advertiser in response to an article published last week about residents in Hadfield fighting unnecessary development. The article was a response to a previous press release issued by Tom Levitt MP, who had criticised the use of Town and Village Green applications in the High Peak:

We refer to Tom Rowsley’s article in your 8 October edition on Josephine Osborne’s opposition to the development of the Brookside Bungalow site close to where she lives on Lambgates Lane in Hadfield.

The site was the subject of a planning application [HPK2008/0369] that was turned down unanimously by the Development Control Committee in August. The application involved surrendering part of ‘Roughfields’, an area of public land adjoining the site, to the developer. As Roughfields is designated as ‘major protected parkland’, it is astonishing that the Planning Office ever recommended it to the Committee for approval. Needless to say, people have had to ask themselves to what extent can High Peak be trusted to preserve our public open spaces and countryside. Nor is it surprising that Jo Osborne has now submitted a Village Green application on Roughfields.

Tom Levitt records on his website that he has complained directly to the Secretary of State for Planning, Baroness Andrews, that Village Green Applications in High Peak are thwarting the Authority’s plans for more housing. In his meeting with the Baroness, he was accompanied by the Strategic Director for Planning and Regeneration from High Peak and Kay Riley from Derbyshire County Council [DCC]. As Assistant Secretary to Derbyshire, Kay Riley is one of the most senior officials in the DCC hierarchy. By accompanying Tom Levitt on a mission to the Baroness to argue against Village Green applications she signals that Derbyshire itself is also opposed to such applications. This puts Derbyshire in a difficult position. It is the registration authority for all Village Greens in Derbyshire and has responsibility to decide whether Village Green applications are accepted or rejected. This obligation requires that it maintains a strict impartiality in the matter of such applications. However in supporting Tom Levitt in his opposition to them, Derbyshire throws away any appearance of neutrality. It declares its position as prejudicial to Village Green applications and thereby disqualifies itself from sitting in judgement upon them.

Our MP, along with a number of High Peak Councillors, believes the convenient myth that Village Greens are backed only by small groups of nimbys prepared to put the their own self–interests before that of the majority. This is far from the truth. Support for Village Greens is widespread and an expression of an increasingly prevalent feeling that more than enough of our unique Peak District landscape and open space has already been surrendered to development. The land claimed in applications is a part of our natural heritage and provides recreation, enjoyment and escape from the man-made world for large numbers of residents and visitors. Its value to ourselves and to future generations is inestimable. It should not be given up to meet some perceived short-term exigency or to qualify High Peak to receive financial carrots dangled by central government. Least of all should it be surrendered to feed the greed of developers.

Again Tom Levitt wants to be thought of as a ‘green’ yet does not appreciate the fundamental change of heart that becoming ‘green’ requires. He thinks that the existing Village Green legislation should be rescinded and the creation of Village Greens incorporated into the process of strategic planning. In other words, he wants to take away from people the little bit of power given to them by the Commons Act of 2006 and hand it back to the soulless bureaucrats and system-servers who run local government. And why ? Because he believes that if the goal-posts get in your way then it is OK to move them irrespective of what damage it may result in to the environment. This belief is but a facet of a more general misconception that Man can somehow find peace of mind and happiness for himself at the same time as trampling all over the rest of nature. Think again, Tom.

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