Approval Recommended for 167 More Green Belt Houses

Ruddington’s two most fought-against Green Belt housing developments are up for discussion by Rushcliffe Borough Council (RBC) planners this Thursday. The “reserved matters application to seek approval of the access, appearance, landscaping, layout and scale for the development of 175 new dwellings on land north of Asher Lane” 19/01983/REM follows the shock approval to allow building on this site back in May 2018. But it is the recommendation for Councillors to grant full planning permission to Bloor Homes for a further 167 new homes on the flood-prone agricultural land west of Wilford Road which is now causing the most angst.

Despite long-running objections from Ruddington Parish Council and hundreds of village residents, both these contentious sites were included in the final Rushcliffe Local Plan Part 2. However, the Government Planning Inspector’s recommendation that no more than 130 properties should be built off Wilford Road (due to much of this site being in National Flood Zones 2 and 3) seems to have been disregarded both by Bloor Homes and local planners. Reduced in number by only 7 houses from the original quota-busting 174, the property developer looks set to get away with cramming 167 dwellings on to this “Land North East of Marl Close” – 37 more than allocated under RBC’s long “consulted upon” plan. In fact, if permission is granted at Thursday’s meeting, then Ruddington’s Green Belt housing allocation will have risen from an originally proposed 250 homes, gradually increased to the 525 properties stated in RBC’s published plan, to a likely total of 588 houses being approved over the four designated village sites.

Mike Ader of Ruddington Action Group is urging Councillors NOT to rubber stamp these plans this Thursday: “It makes a huge mockery of the whole Local Plan public consultation and decision making process if the number of dwellings now proposed by Bloor’s is higher than previously agreed in the Local Plan. Bloor’s should be advised by RBC that the Local Plan numbers are the maximum that they will allow.”

To achieve this much larger than designated number of houses on its site, the property developer plans to convert a substantial amount of further agricultural land north of Packman Dyke (which is owned by Bloor’s but not included in Rushcliffe’s Local Plan Part 2) into a ‘managed flood plain’ for the new estate AND, additionally, move the existing dyke further north.

Under current plans Packman Dyke would be moved onto further Green Belt land to install flood mitigation structures

However, the recent discovery which is most alarming residents along Brookside Road and Brookside Gardens is a letter to RBC by Steve Harley of Oxalis Planning revealing just how significantly the ‘development plateau’ will raise the height of the land bordering existing properties in order to lift the new houses above the flood zone “…sitting around 1 or 1.2m above the level of the existing homes (due to the levels changes proposed).”  The same correspondence reveals the “long gardens” originally promised to existing householders by Bloor’s have now been shrunk to leave just 28 metres back to back between the rear walls of the new homes and those of the houses along Brookside Gardens.

Speaking on behalf of the residents, campaign group Protect Ruddington says: “Although, mercifully, the closest properties will be bungalows, they are proposed to be elevated above the existing hedgerows and fences – looking straight down at very close quarters into people’s gardens and back windows. This is totally unacceptable! Not only that, but existing homes currently set above the level of the flooded field will instead find themselves directly in the run off area from the new estate. Since the Borough Council has recently declared a ‘Climate Emergency’ in anticipation of extremes of weather, why does it not appreciate there is a great danger that the existing houses could become flooded in a future deluge should they be allowed to end up at a level well below the new development? These plans must be rejected and rethought!”

The group is also concerned that, as the elevated new properties will need to have piled foundations, RBC planners should insist this be done by the quieter drilling process – rather than by the hammered in piles previously used by Bloor Homes on Marl Close. It’s envisaged piling for 167 properties could take a year or more – prompting fears the noise and vibration for nearby residents could become unbearable.

Helen Powell, a member of Ruddington Community Association – who campaigned successfully in 2017 to have Sellors’ Recreation Ground removed from Bloor’s original plans – says: “I am so disappointed that they will not return to the original number of houses. They should look at other property developers that care about the areas and community that they build in … they don’t squash in as many houses that they can to get the most money.  Please say NO to the amount of homes!”

Cllr Walker

Rushcliffe Borough Councillors for Ruddington, Jennifer Walker and Mike Gaunt, are continuing to object to the granting of these plans. Cllr Walker says: “Mike and I have become regular features at monthly planning committee meetings and will again be speaking on Thursday. We have listened to the views of local residents and will use these arguments to remind our Borough planning powers that Ruddington has faced unprecedented levels of housing development recently and it is having a big impact on our already overburdened infrastructure which is reaching breaking point. The Conservative/Lib Dem coalition government’s relaxing of the planning laws in 2012 has opened up the precious Green Belt around our village and allowed the Conservative led Borough Council to hammer Ruddington with over 525 homes.”

Cllr Gaunt

Cllr Gaunt adds: “As Labour Borough Councillors we are working very hard to try and mitigate some of the worst impacts of these decisions and would welcome residents’ opinions and assistance during planning committee meetings which are open to the public. Although it can feel like these proposed housing developments are a ‘done deal’, there are still many components that we can affect such as footpaths, style, intensity and green credentials of the housing.”

Ruddington Parish Council has also expressed disappointment that its requests for Section 106 funding from the developer relating to three specific schemes have not been included in the plans set to be approved. These were for:-

  1. “Creation of footways and cycle paths to connect to the existing footways and cycle paths on Wilford Road. The footways and cycle paths will be the link between this development and the amenities/shops in the centre of the village and the schools.”
  2. “A signalled pedestrian crossing over Wilford Road in the vicinity of the development. This is to allow parents and children to cross the road safely to access St Peter’s Junior School.”
  3. “The purchasing of land from Ruddington Grange Golf Club and the funds to create a tarmacked path on the purchased land to create a footpath & cycle path leading from Wilford Road to St Peter’s Junior School on Ashworth Avenue. This is to provide a safe and more direct walking/cycling route to the school, this will encourage more parents and children to walk or cycle to the school which will bring about benefits to health and increase safety and reduce congestion on the estate immediately surrounding the school.”

This new footpath would also have given existing and new residents at the north end of the village much closer access to Nottingham City Transport’s Green 10 bus now that the Navy 3 Wilford Road service no longer runs in the early mornings, evenings or on Sundays. This has still not been updated in Bloor Homes’ Travel Plan dated November 2019 even though the Navy 3 buses were cut back in January 2019. Instead RBC proposes some of these aspirations might be achieved through a financial contribution in the region of just £93,353, which could be made available to the Parish Council.

However, the “public open space” (shown above) on the surviving strip of Green Belt land north of the proposed development, to be accessed by pathways across a remodelled Packman Dyke, has generated some positive reaction. Nottinghamshire Wildlife Trust‘s Senior Conservation Office, Ben Driver, says: “We accept that this would be a net gain in biodiversity (current habitats present are arable and of low biodiversity value). We are pleased to see habitat features included on the plan include wet grasslands, ponds, new hedgerows and trees and the creation of railway ballast habitats to benefit priority butterfly species. If approved we would recommend a condition be attached to secure the production of a grass snake translocation strategy as they are protected species and thus a material consideration. We would also recommend, if approved, a mechanism is put in place through the planning system to secure future long-term management, in line with the submitted ecology mitigation plan, which does contain some outline detail on future management requirements (reference to cutting regimes etc).”

But Ruddington artist-curator, Tristram Aver, who’s become well known in our village for his tree themed artwork, told that more dense tree planting would act as a screen for the new houses from Wilford Road and also have other benefits: “Even though open land left to be wild is great for a diverse local ecosystem, a ‘community forest’ is a better idea in light of the flood risks. My aim is to work with residents and the Parish and Borough councils to create ‘future forests’ in Ruddington” says Tristram, who has recently fundraised thousands of pounds for the Woodland Trust and Autism East Midlands through the sale of his tree prints.

Tristram proposes more tree planting to enhance the new village gateway – which would be pushed out further north along Wilford Road

He adds: “Groupings of trees have greater ecological impact, and better chance of survival, than planting individual trees arbitrarily or sporadically. A large planting initiative in the area north of Packman Dyke would reduce the flood risk because mature trees can individually soak up to 50 to 100 gallons of water a day. So this, over time, would support the existing flood measures the developer has committed to putting in place.”

The full set of proposals and conditions relating to this Wilford Road planning application 19/01287/FUL can be found >>HERE<< with the rest of the documents available to view >>HERE<<.

Letters were sent to all those who had previously commented on this application inviting them to speak at this Thursday’s Planning Committee Meeting (13th February 2020) but only if they responded by Monday’s deadline. However, it’s still open to anyone in Ruddington who wishes to attend as a spectator, and takes place at 6.30pm in the Council Chamber of Rushcliffe Arena on Rugby Road in West Bridgford.

The Council Chamber in West Bridgford where Ruddington’s fate will be sealed

UPDATE 13th FEB 2020: At the above meeting, planning approval was granted for BOTH these applications. You can read more >>HERE<<.

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