Shock announcement that local plan for 4,989 new homes in Hucknall will be paused after first stage of consultation

Ashfield District Council will pause progress on its draft local plan following the first round of consultation to receive “clarification” from Whitehall about the Prime Minister’s housing comments.

Wednesday, 20th October 2021, 2:55 pm

Coun Jason Zadrozny (Ash Ind), the council’s leader, has written to both the Prime Minister and the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities (DLUHC), for guidance on remarks Boris Johnson made in his Conservative Party Conference speech.

The Prime Minister said the Government will prioritise building houses without ‘destroying the green belt’, suggesting a policy shift to favour new developments on brownfield, industrial sites.

He said: “We will make it faster and easier to build beautiful new homes without destroying the green belt or desecrating the countryside.”

Coun Jason Zadrozny has written to the Government asking for clarification on the Prime Minister's comments

His comments came at the same time as the council launched the first round of consultation on its emerging local plan.

The document, which has received furious backlash from residents, will see 8,226 homes built across the district between now and 2038.

It includes plans for a 3,0 00-home settlement on greenbelt land in Whyburn Farm, Hucknall, and a 1,000-home settlement off Cauldwell Road, Sutton-in-Ashfield.

Coun Zadrozny has been critical of the Government since releasing the plan, suggesting the homes are being forced on the district by ‘unrealistic and unfair’ targets set by Whitehall.

The Government does set housing targets to be met by local authorities.

However, councils decide which land to allocate for housing developments and Whitehall has no say on where new homes are built.

Councils can be hit with financial penalties or even intervention if they fail to hit the figure, with official data showing Ashfield failed to meet its housing targets in each year between 2017-18 and 2019-20 – missing out by 489 homes over three years.

The council leader says assessments by planning officers found no more than about 1,100 of the 8,226 houses in the plan could be built on existing and available brownfield sites.

It means, he says, the remaining 7,000 homes must be accommodated on greenfield and greenbelt land to meet the target.

But speaking to the Local Democracy Reporting Service, he is seeking clarity from the Government about Boris Johnson’s comments, and whether it could lead to a reduction in its housing targets to prevent ‘desecrating the countryside’.

He said: “We’ve written to them and we’ve also written to civil servants to say this statement was made by Boris Johnson.

“ They’ve asked us to build 8,226 houses but we can only accommodate around 1,100 on brownfie ld , and we’ve asked whether there’s going to be a change of policy or if they want us to proceed with the plan.

“We are pausing now after this first round of consultation while we await an answer, and the Government are either going to have to say they’re changing policy or come clean and say we must continue.”

“We asked the Government for clarity on whether the Prime Minister’s comments could impact Ashfield’s local plan or reduce its housing target.

A DLUHC spokesperson said: “Making the most of previously developed land is a Government priority – it will not only deliver new, high-quality homes but help protect our cherished countryside and green spaces.

“We remain committed to continuing our progress towards our target of 300,000 homes a year by the mid-2020s.

“We are currently reviewing departmental programmes and we will come forward with our proposals for reform of the planning system in due course.”

The first stage of Ashfield’s local plan consultation will end on November 16.