We were dismayed to learn that the Gladman application for 107 dwellings at Linglongs Road, Whaley Bridge has been approved by High Peak Borough Council.
There were some powerful reasons why the scheme should not have gone ahead, and these were glossed over by the Council in making their decision. The Council argued that the site’s contribution to a 5-year supply of housing would outweigh environmental impacts but, setting aside subjective judgements as to whether the landscape impacts would be significant or not, there are three big problems with the decision.
Firstly, it comes hot on the heels of permission being granted on appeal for housing schemes in Glossop at North Road and Dinting Lane. It is no coincidence that these are all sites where the local community has fiercely contested their allocation in the Local Plan, and it is a travesty of local democracy that the fate of such sites is being determined before the completion of the Local Plan. We have consistently argued that decisions on contested sites should be deferred until the Plan is completed. Some delay in providing new housing is better than providing it in the wrong places.
Secondly, the Highway Authority (Derbyshire County Council) noted that “the site is not particularly well-located to local services and facilities, and therefore future residents would travel by car”. This simply does not square with a Local Plan policy that new development should ‘reduce the need to travel by car’. The proposal has been judged on whether it affects the operation of the road network, but not on whether the additional traffic will have a cumulative, chronic impact on local communities through noise, congestion and pollution, not to mention encouraging unhealthy, sedentary lifestyles. This issue has been raised by Friends of the Peak District and by hundreds of local residents, yet it has been roundly ignored.
Finally, the new housing will be at a low density that cannot support viable public transport services. In our view, public transport is essential to quality of life, and sites that are suitable for high density developments – ie close to the centres of our towns and cities – should be developed first. At the moment the exact opposite is happening, with green sites on the edges of settlements coming forward first, not only damaging the countryside but also undermining public transport and the character of towns and villages.
There is still a battle to be fought at Linglongs Road when the details of the scheme are put forward, but the permanent loss of this greenfield site is now sadly inevitable. Let us hope that the Government’s obsession with quantity over quality in new housing can be tamed before more of High Peak’s beautiful countryside suffers the same fate.