Plans for dozens of affordable homes in a Derbyshire town have been rejected after mounting public opposition.
The plans, put forward by local developer Ian Jowett for land off Longmoor Lane in Sandiacre, were refused by Erewash Borough Council.
This was against the recommendations of its own officers, who had proposed the approval of the scheme.
Councillors felt the scheme represented over-development, harmed the character of the area and disturbed wildlife.
More than 70 residents wrote objection letters to the council.
Local resident, Frank Nieuwenhuys, speaking at the planning meeting last week, claimed that “hundreds” of people were opposed to the project.
On the night, this included 11 residents who submitted statements to the meeting itself and three borough councillors, including the authority’s deputy leader, Cllr Wayne Major.
Mr Nieuwenhuys called the proposed plans “unacceptable”, “excessive” and “cramped” and said residents were “worried” that the scheme was far too dense – with too many homes for the space – and did not provide enough space for vehicles.
He also claimed that the proposed homes, none of which are detached and most of which are two-bed properties, were out of keeping with the area.
The location of the proposed houses
The homes, had they been approved, would have been affordable housing, with the developer in talks with a housing association to manage the site.
Resident Anne Hellinger, also spoke at the meeting, claiming 284 residents plus the Sandiacre Parish Council and the Sandiacre Historical Society were opposed to the plans.
She claimed that a wall on the site which had historical value had been partially demolished by the developer and that protected trees had been chopped down without planning permission.
Martin Brooks, who lives near the site, said he was not opposed to the site being developed and said he was aware of the shortage of homes in the borough, but that the current plans were not acceptable.
Anne Butler, a resident near the site for more than 30 years, said that Springfield House, a sizeable home which sits on the site and would be demolished as part of the plans, and its surrounding pond and woodland, are the “epicentre of biodiversity” in the area, including bats and rare moths.
Springfield House was built in around 1830.
Derbyshire County Council’s archaeologist said that Springfield House was an “undesignated heritage asset” and that retention and re-use would be a better option.
Sandiacre History Society has also objected and suggested that Springfield House be retained and restored, possibly as flats.
Several residents said that the proposed homes would breach the privacy of existing homes and would overlook and overshadow houses in the area.
Keef Hellinger, a resident near the site, said that traffic levels on Longmoor Lane past the site are “extreme” and that construction vehicles have struggled to get on and off the proposed plot.
Margaret Webster, who has lived near the site for more than 50 years, said the number of homes being proposed was too high and claimed that trees were chopped down on the plot during bird nesting season.
Cllr Tony Sanghera, a Sandiacre ward member on the borough council, said residents on the proposed development would be “squashed in like sardines”.
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He said the development posed a safety risk for children crossing the road and nearby residents at Longmoor Lodge Care Home.
Cllr Steve Bilbie and Cllr Sanghera both said that Longmoor Lane was “gridlocked” for much of the day, even outside rush-hour periods.
Cllr Major said he opposed the plans in their current form, claiming they were unsustainable.
He said: “This site would become a major gateway to the whole estate, therefore, we have to ask the question of if this development is a fitting one and in keeping with character, I would argue it is not.”
Cllr Major claimed the development would have “significant negative impacts” on residents living around the site.
Paul Gaughan, agent for the developer, said in a written statement read at the meeting, that the scheme was a “high quality” and sustainable development.
He said that Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s statement last summer to “build, build, build” should be heard in Erewash, said to be below its annual house-building targets.
Mr Gaughan said the scheme was for 100 per cent affordable housing “which will benefit the residents of Erewash borough, who are currently either unable to obtain an affordable property or are living in crowded housing conditions. This development would deliver housing that is needed locally”.
Steve Birkinshaw, the council’s head of housing, said it was “difficult to see” how the scheme was out of character with other homes and harmed other properties in the immediate vicinity.
He said there were similar homes adjoining the site and a short distance from the plot, with some views blocked by trees.
Cllr Howard Griffiths said he “did not think it (the development) was so distinct as it would stick out like a sore thumb” and there was a need to provide sites in urban areas, as opposed to in the protected green belt.
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He said it would have to be accepted that lower-cost housing was more dense to bring down the price for incoming residents.
Cllr Tim Scott said he was “quite saddened” at the potential loss of a green site and was concerned with over-development and pollution.
Cllr Val Custance said she agreed to development in the area but that 45 homes on this plot was too many, and preferred a potential 30 or fewer homes.
She said the proposed new road on Longmoor Lane could become a “rat-run” through to Sandringham Road during traffic jams.
Cllr John Frudd said the proposed scheme provided “much-needed” affordable rented housing for people in lower-paid jobs or on zero hours contracts. Some people, he said, will never be able to own their own property and said this is why the proposed scheme was vital.
Schemes such as this, he said, were like “gold dust”.