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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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