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Can the green fields of Matlock Wolds be saved from development?

By Lewis Townsend
8th July 2021

The long battle to save a precious green field site adjacent to Matlock Moor continues. But, given that the site was included in the Derbyshire Dales Local Plan, can that battle still be won?

Five years ago, when Derbyshire Dales District Council was developing its Local Plan 2013-2033, one of the sites proposed for housing was Gritstone Road/Pinewood Road in Matlock, otherwise known as the Wolds. This is an area of open landscape above the town, adjacent to Matlock Moor and highly visible from multiple viewpoints. CPRE Derbyshire objected to its inclusion on landscape and traffic grounds, as did hundreds of local residents and Matlock Town Council. Unfortunately, the council chose to ignore the numerous valid objections, including concerns about flooding, and included the site in the Local Plan.

The developer, William Davis, submitted and application to develop the site in 2018, and more recently has submitted a revised version. The application proposes a total of 423 houses, and a district shopping centre, to be built in four phases over nine years. Also included are flood mitigation measures and a so-called ‘country park’.

CPRE has objected to this latest application. We do not believe that the site should have been included in the Local Plan in the first place. It’s a prominent site of high landscape value, with traditional field patterns sloping up to the wilder landscapes of the moor. We believe that the landscape sensitivity of the site has been underestimated.

We are concerned that the flood risk to the town posed by run-off from the site has not been adequately addressed, given the predicted increase in rainfall in the future and the large numbers of springs and aquifers underground.

CPRE was also very concerned that the developer proposes to reduce the proportion of affordable housing on site from 30 to 15 per cent, and has recently indicated that they can’t afford to provide any Section 106 funding to support affordable housing elsewhere. Given that one of the key selling points for designating this beautiful area for development was its contribution to providing affordable housing, this is totally unacceptable.

You can read our latest submission on this planning application here.

Hundreds of local people and local groups are also objecting to development on this site. The Wolds Action Group, a local campaign group set up to resist the development proposals is encouraging as many objections as possible. You can read more about their campaign here.

But can all these valid concerns protect this important site? It would be highly unusual for development on a site included in the approved Local Plan to be turned down, and if it were, the developer would have a strong case to appeal such a decision.

What could, and should make all the difference is new evidence about the risk of flooding caused by run-off from the site. We have already seen that existing recent housing developments have made Matlock’s vulnerability to flooding worse. See the story on our website, which features a photo of the Wolds site above Matlock.

Local experts are pointing out that the flood risk of development on this site has not been adequately investigated, neither has the cumulative effect of a number of upland developments in the town been taken into account. They also say that the proposed flood mitigation measures on the site are inadequate and could even pose a danger to neighbouring areas. There is an informed view that current infrastructure to prevent flooding into the River Derwent could not cope with any further pressure from water run off from surrounding hillsides.

We can only hope that continued pressure and expert evidence will save this precious landscape for future generations.