Arguments, allegations and accusations rained down as councillors voted in favour of the huge Rolls-Royce housing and business development in Hucknall.
As plans for the 140 hectare site, which comes with the hope of 2,000 jobs, were given the green light in a vote of six to three, campaigners against it gasped and said the decision was ‘downright disgusting’.
But applicants Rolls-Royce and Muse Developments ‘welcomed the decision’ amidst a very unhappy crowd of over 70 residents who attended the Ashfield District Council planning meeting, which lasted over two hours on Wednesday night.
“I’m shell-shocked,” said Sally Wyatt, chairman of the Reach Out Residents group who made a 20 minute presentation against the application. “This is a very sad day for Hucknall.
“There were numerous misleading statements and questions asked by councillors not answered and some appeared to have a pre-determined decision.
“We feel we have been stabbed in the back by Hucknall town representatives.
“Only Coun Trevor Locke supported the town’s residents. We feel very let down.”
The multi-million pound plans include 900 homes and a business park, together with a primary school and leisure facilities.
New access roads will be constructed onto the site at Watnall Road leading through the development out onto the A611 bypass with new roundabouts put in place in an attempt to ease traffic congestion. However residents and several councillors raised concerns during the meeting about the impact the scheme would have on motorists.
“The current traffic at the bypass into Bulwell is the bane of my life,” said Coun David Shaw (Lab Hucknall East) at the meeting. “It is dreadful.”
Coun Trevor Locke (Lab Hucknall Central) agreed: “I have real concerns over the volume of vehicles heading along the bypass into Nottingham as very often I am stuck for half an hour in the funnel that occurs here.”
These views were echoed by Coun Chris Baron (Lab Hucknall West) who went as far to say that the link road through the site should have been made into a bypass extension but this was ruled out by planning officers as ‘unviable’.
Other concerns over the application included healthcare provision, education, ecology and environmental.
But speaking on behalf of the applicants, Andrew Woodisse dismissed these concerns and said all relevant agencies had been consulted and planning agreements and negotiations made to alleviate these worries.
Under a section 106 planning agreement £3.5million will be contributed to build the primary school, with an extra £2.314 million extra towards improvements to the current secondary education provision in the town.
Healthcare services will receive £750,000 when 80 per cent of the dwellings are occupied but residents claim this isn’t enough.
The application is a hybrid one with part outline and part detailed submissions.
“This is an incredibly significant development to the authority in terms of jobs and housing,” stated Trevor Watson, Ashfield District Council’s service director-economy at the meeting. “This has been a very complex application to deal with and officers have worked very closely with Rolls-Royce and their agents to negotiate the very substantial section 106 obligations and the cross subsidy for business development against the housing.”
Coun Baron voted in favour of the application saying Ashfield couldn’t reject such an opportunity to bring such level of employment to the town.
“This is the largest application this authority has received in a decade,” said Coun Baron. “I understand the concerns of the residents but standing still is not an option for our town.
“We have to think of future generations – they need to have education, jobs and decent places to bring up their families.
Coun Baron added: “Ashfield District Council was the first signatory to the “Yes to Homes” scheme, which promotes “Right homes, right place, right time” - I believe this application ticks all three of those boxes.”
In seconding the motion, Coun Steve Carroll (Lab Sutton East) said that the scheme would bring prosperity to Hucknall.
“I am confident our officers will get the best for Ashfield and I am happy to second the motion,” he said.
In a statement issued after the vote, Rolls-Royce said: “We welcome the decision to award planning permission to our development plans in Hucknall.
“This is positive news and we will continue to progress our plans for the new homes, community facilities and business park.”
Reach out’s Sally Wyatt thanked those residents for showing their support in turning up for the meeting.
“Your support meant so much and we are grateful to you all,” she said. “We gave it our best shot.
“We will watch this as it progresses and wherever we can still have an impact, we will.”