Hucknall meeting on bid to build on town's green belt sends defiant message of objection as town unifies
The character and passion of Hucknall was on show as hundreds of residents turned out for a public meeting on controversial proposals to build thousands of new houses on green-belt land in the town.
And the message was loud and clear from the audience at the John Godber Centre on Ogle Street on Saturday morning……. ‘we will not stand for this destruction’.
A capacity crowd of 200 gathered at the venue, with many more left outside and unable to get in.
The main focus was on the pinpointing of the Whyburn Farm site for 3,000 new homes in Ashfield’s emerging local plan.
But the document also contains 14 other Hucknall sites (a mixture of brownfield and greenfield) with the town earmarked for almost 5,000 homes in total – a massive 63% of the 8,000-plus target set by government.
Areas such as Kirkby, Sutton and the rurals would be targeted for a small percentage in contrast as part of the plan presented by the Ashfield Independent-run Ashfield District Council.
And at the meeting the community showed a level of unity – and passion – at the start of what Hucknall Labour councillor Lauren Mitchell described as “a long and bumpy road” as she urged people to “buckle themselves in”.
Coun Mitchell was part of a panel at the meeting that included Hucknall members of Ashfield Council, Coun Chris Baron (Con) and Coun John Wilmott (Ash Ind), local doctor Jonathan Bhushan and Jemma Chambers, founder of the Hucknall Against Whyburn Farm Development Facebook group, which has 3,600 members.
The event was chaired by well-known Hucknallite John Wilkinson and gave residents the chance to air their views and pass comment on the controversy.
The level of emotion shown by those in the audience was there for all to see and none more so than from a man named Daniel who explained just what Whyburn and the adjoining Misk Hills mean to him.
He explained how the green fields gave him an escape when he was struggling at school – and he still visits the area to help him deal with depression.
Showing incredible bravery, he said: “Bulldozing that site woud be like bulldozing a piece of my mind.”
Audience member Nick Sherwood labelled the plan “shoddy” and “poorly put together”.
In her opening statement, Coun Mitchell said: “We need to be loud and proud about what we are saying we cannot keep letting this happen.”
She also revealed that at the next full council she would be putting a motion forward to have the local plan withdrawn – something Coun Wilmott revealed he would support.
Coun Baron said that just 54 houses are pinpointed in the ward of council leader Coun Jason Zadrozny (Ash Ind) and that it is time the likes of Sutton and Kirkby took their fair share.
He added: “The Independents have given little thought to this plan and they have little knowledge of our town and residents.”
Coun John Wilmott explained that the government has set the housing targets and Ashfield Council must deliver or face removal of planning powers and asked Hucknall’s MP, Mark Spencer, to speak to Prime Minister Boris Johnson after a promise to protect green fields.
After saying he has spent “most of his political life fighting for the town”, Coun Wilmott added that the plan had been “the talk of the town” and he and his Independent colleagues are “firmly against it”.
The latter claim drew cries of derision from the audience who shouted “it’s your plan, how can you be against it.”
Other comments during the open forum included one from Andrew Shelton who called for Coun Wilmott and his peers to commit to vote against the plan and “not abstain or say you can’t get to the meeting.”
The plans were labelled “disproportionate” by another audience member, others questioned how the sites had been pinpointed.
A Hucknall man known as Bazil Thebikeman said: “I don’t get emotional about much but I am emotional about this. It neds to be stopped and it needs to be stopped for the people of Hucknall.”
Others questioned how Hucknall’s infrastructure – including doctors’ surgeries, schools and dentists – could possibly cope as things are already at breaking point.
It was stated that some living on the development on part of the Rolls-Royce site are already having to send their children to school in Kimberley.
Another contributor said: “If we build on green belt we are killing ourselves. If we do not work with Mother Nature, she will kill us.
While a lady in the crowd said: “Everyone in this room is on the same page. It’s cross-generational too. So what’s the problem?
"Why, when the people who have put this forward are against it and think it’s ridiculous it is cut and dry is it not just rejected? We should all go home happy.”
In responding to some of the comments, Coun Baron said: “The MPs for Ashfield and Sherwood want to work with Ashfield Council but they do not want to because they think they know best. Unfortunately they do not.”
The consultation on the local plan is ongoing. More stories on the meeting and the plans will follow on this website and in the pages of the Dispatch, which is standing firm with residents against the proposals.
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