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Annual General Meeting 2016

CPRE Derbyshire AGM, held at Cromford Mills on Saturday 4 June, was an interesting and enjoyable day.  

Around thirty members joined together in the Riber Room at the mill to chat, network, and to eat a splendid buffet.  After lunch we were given a fascinating talk about Sir Richard TourArkwright who pioneered the world’s first successful water powered cotton mill here in Derbyshire, and this was followed by a visit to the Arkwright Experience, an excellent audio-visual presentation of his life and work by the man himself.
Once back in the Riber Room the Chair of CPRE Derbyshire, Tim Silvester, gave his annual report.  He reminded the meeting that this year we celebrate 90 years of CPRE nationally and 80 years of the Derbyshire branch – truly an impressive achievement.
Tim outlined the current national perspective on planning and housebuilding.  The national CPRE had published two excellent analyses of the Government’s approach, ‘Community Control or Countryside Chaos?’ and ‘Set up to Fail’.  These showed that allocating more and more land for housing was not leading to a solution to housing shortages, but was actually causing damage to the countryside and not delivering suitable housing.  Local authorities are being forced to adopt housing targets based on aspiration, rather than need.
Locally, this was well illustrated by examples in Derbyshire.  Amber Valley council had suspended its plan and was beginning the process all over again, because they found they were not going to meet their targets, and therefore needed to allocate yet more sites for housing, even though this has been shown to be a flawed approach.
Derbyshire Dales council has just published the draft Local Plan, including many unsuitable greenfield sites.  However, in the absence of an approved plan, numerous unsuitable rural sites, particularly in the Ashbourne area, had been given approval for housing, even though local people and the branch had objected strongly.  
Tim drew the meeting’s attention to the branch response to the DDDC draft plan, for which we had commissioned professional support.  ReportWe questioned the need to allocate so many sites, and concluded that 25 hectares of land could be spared from development, just by increasing housing density on other sites.
Tim also talked about the expectations of local people and groups as to what support the branch could give.  We have been inundated with requests for help by groups fighting to save many very sensitive sites across the county.  We would like to do more, but with few resources and very few active volunteers, we had to pick and choose our battles carefully.  We have had some successes in opposing applications on very sensitive sites, including in Two Dales, Ashover and Dunston Lane in Chesterfield.  Unfortunately, all three had been appealed by the developer – only Two Dales had thus far had the appeal dismissed.
After a break for tea Tania Pells from DerwentWISE gave us a very interesting talk about this heritage landscape partnership project of the Lower Derwent Valley - from Bonsall in the north to Darley Abbey in the south.
Derwentwise2The project has been running for almost two years and its aims are to safeguard and restore this unique landscape by:
•Restoring, linking and extending habitats and geological sites.
•Ensuring that the character of the wider landscape, which includes walls, hedgerows and ancient trees, is protected and enhanced.
•Improving access to and better interpretation of heritage sites and features.
•Promoting public engagement by ensuring that communities feel proud of their landscape and ensure they are equipped to be involved with its long-term care.
The project hopes to achieve these aims by:
•Identifying and engaging with owners of priority sites and features, providing advice, training and access to funding.
•Carrying out a 'Heritage at Risk' audit of both built heritage features, in order to make recommendations for their conservation, and the skills of volunteers, to make any necessary improvements.
•Delivering a programme of community engagement and arts activities to increase public involvement, understanding of the landscape and to increase access to information about the valley.
•Delivering a programme of education activities with schools, twinning urban and rural areas.
•Developing a 'Forest Schools' programme.
•Providing heritage skills training based at Derbyshire's new Eco Centre.
Most of our CPRE Derbyshire members were unaware of the scope of the project and encouraged by how much had been achieved so far, with considerable community input from volunteers. It made us appreciate just how fortunate we are to be living in such a diverse and historic area!
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