Councillor responsible for plan that includes 3,000 houses on Hucknall green belt hits back at criticism

The Ashfield District Council cabinet member responsible for the authority’s ‘controversial’ 8,000-home local plan has hit back at cross-party criticism to the proposals.

The site at Whyburn Farm in Hucknall
The site at Whyburn Farm in Hucknall

The controversial draft local plan was moved forward on Monday (September 20). It forms a development blueprint for Ashfield up until 2038, including sites for new homes.

But the bombshell was a suggestion that 3,000 could be built on a SINGLE Hucknall site at Whyburn Farm, a proposal that had bought widespread dismay.

Strong criticism followed from Conservative MPs and Labour councillors

Lee Anderson, Ashfield’s Conservative MP, described the plan as “shocking”, while Mark Spencer, the Conservative MP representing Hucknall, described the document as a “dereliction of duty” by the ruling Ashfield Independents.

But the council’s leader, Jason Zadrozny, says the level of housing is high because the authority is “being forced” by Whitehall to meet Government housebuilding targets.

The Government does set housing targets to be met by local authorities, with Ashfield District Council told it needs to build 8,226 homes before 2038.

Councils can be hit with financial penalties from Whitehall if they fail to hit the targets.

However, local authorities decide which land to allocate for housing developments, with the Government having no say on exactly where new homes are built.

And Coun Matthew Relf (Ash Ind), the portfolio holder responsible for the plan, defended the document when facing full council on Thursday (September 23).

He emphasised the point about national housebuilding targets, adding there are “nowhere near enough brownfield sites” in the district to meet the target.

“It is inevitable fields will have to be built on,” he added.

“We would love to reduce this level, and if our local MPs feel too much land would be lost in this plan, I would love to work with them.”

The authority also received criticism from Labour councillors over the planned 3,000-home development in Hucknall.

The settlement, at Whyburn Farm, includes plans for an on-site primary school and healthcare facilities, as well as a potential tram extension.

But Cllr Lauren Mitchell, Labour group leader and Hucknall South councillor, accused the Ashfield Independents of “dumping” houses in the town.

Also included in the plan is a 1,000-home development in Sutton.

Coun Relf added: “One of the proposed new settlements is in my ward. This is hardly the action of someone who’s trying to ‘dump’ development elsewhere.

“Do I like our local plan? No, I do not. However, given the constraints imposed upon us by the Government, do I think our plan is the most suitable and sustainable plan we can [provide]? Yes, I do.”

The first consultation on the document will run from October 4 until November 16.

Information will be published on the council’s website, with posters and notices also placed in town centres, community centres and libraries.

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