Rotherham threatens its own green belt
We have submitted our response to the latest round of consultations on the Rotherham Local Plan. The Core Strategy was adopted in September and the Council is now working on its companion document, the Sites and Policies Plan. This describes the policies used to assess planning applications and identifies the sites that will be allocated for development across the Borough.
In order to meet its numerical housing requirement Rotherham has decided it needs to review its Green Belt. We have taken issue with Rotherham's proposed Green Belt changes for three reasons.
Firstly, we believe the housing requirement is unrealistically high, because to deliver it would mean either a big programme of social housebuilding or a large growth of the private housing market (or both) and neither of these is on the cards. So the Council is allocating land on the basis of inflated targets, and the result will be a drift of housebuilding away from brownfield sites, that need to be regenerated, and towards greenfield sites in the Green Belt.
Secondly, Rotherham has persisted with identifying a large area of Green Belt at Dinnington for housing, despite the fact that its own evidence raises serious concerns about its sustainability: it is too far from centres of employment, has inadequate public transport and would require a substantial upgrade in local amenities, if it is to avoid simply becoming a dormitory settlement for car-based commuters.
Thirdly, the draft document proposes taking a substantial amount of land out of the Green Belt as 'safeguarded land' for possible development further into the future, arguing that this will avoid the need for another Green Belt review.
However, we have plenty of evidence from elsewhere that safeguarded land is much less protected from inappropriate, speculative development than Green Belt sites, especially through planning appeals, and we fear that Rotherham will not be able to control the future of these sites in the way it envisages. In other words, once the sites are out of the Green Belt there is little chance of their going back into it.
There will be a Public Examination of the Sites and Polices Plan some time in 2015.