We shared Hartington’s disbelief when the National Park's planning officers recommended approval of the latest proposal to redevelop the Dairycrest site in their village, which included just four affordable houses. Thankfully, we were also able to share in their celebrations when the Committee members went against the officers and turned the scheme down.
Everyone accepts that the derelict site to the west of Hartington needs to be cleaned up, and that some new houses will be involved. However, the only reason for approving the current proposals would be what 'Yes, Prime Minister' famously described as politician's logic: 'Something must be done; this is something, therefore it must be done'. Indeed, one Committee member did put forward that very argument. By contrast, most members were clear that Hartington deserved better, and that it was worth holding out for a solution more suited to the character and needs of the village.
We were really impressed by the local community's approach to this case. They are not NIMBYs. They want some new development and eloquently expressed their desire to see more young families move into Hartington, and breathe fresh life into the village. They don't want what they have been offered: an executive enclave, a 'gated community without the gates’. They co-ordinated their objections to the scheme, turned out in force to the Planning Committee, and struck a chord with the members. It was a brilliant case study in how to influence local decision-making.
The proposals were refused permission because they are wrong for the scale and needs of the village, and also because they show no attempt to provide for sustainability considerations such as zero-energy buildings. We commend both the members and the officers for establishing a principled position on the need for any new development to be sustainable as well as sensitive.
The sticky question is what happens next. The developer may try and push ahead with the scheme by appealing against the decision, but having already lost one appeal on the site a few years ago, we hope they’ve lost their appetite for an adversarial stance. It would be much better for the developer to listen to what the community wants, and work with them to make it acceptable in planning terms, and financially viable. As the Committee members and the local community poured out of the meeting there seemed to be some optimism that more dialogue and co-operation might be the way forward… but the developer has to agree to that too.