Garden village idea leaves villagers of Elton on the Hill and Orston panicked
A garden village that could effectively join two existing villages has been described as a desecration of the countryside.
Fifteen miles from Nottingham, Orston and Elton on the Hill are 1.8miles apart and joined by a single carriageway road. Their common ground until now is they share a little-used request stop railway station, but all that could be about to change.
Despite their distance from Nottingham, the proposal features in a draft strategic plan for housing development in the Greater Nottingham area. The villages are in Rushcliffe and Rushcliffe Borough Council is a contributor to the strategic plan.
Villagers say they only uncovered the prospect of a garden village between them by chance as no-one from the borough notified them of its inclusion as a possible site for housing.
It is said a mockery of a consultation exercise resulted as they had been unaware there was anything for them to comment upon.
It is estimated that the area suggested for the garden village, spanning Station Road and largely in the direction of Bottesford, which has been roughly delineated on a map, could accommodate 5,000 homes, 25 times the size of Orston.
Garden villages are designed to be distinct, self-contained communities of between 1,500 and 10,000 homes. They will have their own facilities – such as shops, schools and transport links – and include green spaces.
The garden village is contained in the first production of the Greater Nottingham Strategic Plan.
The plan also details possible expansions to neighbouring Aslockton, the local market town of Bingham, where significant development is already taking place, East Bridgford, Cotgrave, Radcliffe and the A52 corridor, and at the former RAF Newton, the Langar Airfield.
It is the only garden village proposal included for consideration in the whole of the Greater Nottingham area.
Both villages are demanding an explanation from Rushcliffe Borough Council who included the garden village in the draft plan.
A joint villages public meeting is planned when coronavirus restrictions allow.
Bottesford is said to be monitoring the position carefully.
Tim Powell, chairman of the Elton on the Hill Parish Meeting - at just 75 homes the idyllic village is too small to have a parish council, said: "One or two people have said wait and see, but the overwhelming response here in Elton is that the significant majority are opposed to this proposal, which is admittedly outline.
"The concerns raised are transport and infrastructure. The junction with the A52 is dangerous as it stands and we have the potential for 10,000 more cars trying to use it. The A52 is not a local authority road, it is the responsibility of Highways England and there are no assurances of any kind that the junction will be made safe.
"Everybody who lives in Elton is here by choice.because of a love for the rural environment. We are prepared to put up with the inconveniences that come with that because of the low population density and because we are surrounded by countryside. All that goes out the window and we become a conurbation with Orston.
"I received no formal notification of this. Nobody from the borough has been in touch with me.
"While this is unlikely to be the only opportunity to consult, had we not been made aware by somebody in Orston, then I fear that absence of comments from us would have led to the backstop position of 'you had the chance to object but didn't.'
"This is a significant point. Given that something as vast as this is proposed, there is a clear obligation to be absolutely transparent in bringing this forward and that didn't happen, and that has caused anxiety.
"Probably calling it a garden village is a bit of window dressing. I understand the obligation to build homes, but, being candid, what is involved is the desecration of the countryside that people choose to immerse themselves in and enjoy.
"There are a mere 45 dwellings in this village and there is a view that we don't really count. We live in a village right on the edge of the county. But, I will say this, we all have equal rights. I would be very disappointed if there were an attitude that 'it is only Elton so it doesn't count'. We are a village with history and character.
"The consultation period ends on September 14. That is not long enough for us to launch a formal response - practically no time at all to raise funds or employ solicitors and planning consultants, particularly given the state the country is currently in."
Nick Hammond, from Orston Parish Council, said: "This seems to drive a coach and horses through the recently agreed Rushcliffe Local Plan, and does not appear to meet the criteria set by government for establishing a garden village.
"Whilst we normally take a carefully considered view of such long term strategies, the fact that the government is proposing to radically alter planning regulations means the thinking behind these proposals should be challenged urgently.”
Paul Wright lives off Station Road and said: "It came out of the blue and has shocked quite a number of people.
"There's a consultation that ends in September, but no-one knows when it started.
"If it wasn't for a guy in the village clever enough to find it, we'd have been none the wiser.
"Everyone is panicked.
"This could effectively join three villages, one of them (Bottesford) in a different county. We could have up to 5,000 homes, but all of the other things that come with a garden village, doctors, dentists, school, shops, cafes and a huge amount of landscaping and infrastructure. How long could this area be a construction site?
"And what about our homes? Are they going to want 1930s style homes in the middle of all of this? Will they be compulsory purchased?
"How does the council think that it can produce a document with such a huge effect on communities with such negligence? Someone has produced a brief, put a circle around an area, a consultation document has been hidden on the internet and yet thousands of people are affected.
"You can't just leave people in limbo like this."
The borough is working alongside Gedling and Broxtowe borough councils and Nottingham City Council in the preparation of the Greater Nottingham Strategic Plan, which will set out the councils’ strategy for future development up to 2038.
Current predictions are that those areas will need to build 59,420 homes in that time.
The first formal stage in preparing the plan is the Growth Options document that includes a series of questions to establish the scope of the draft strategic plan, which will be consulted on in 2021.
The broad aim is said to be achieving sustainable development that will continue to ensure Greater Nottingham is "a great place to live and work, to visit or do business" with sustainability, infrastructure and climate change all considerations.
Rushcliffe Borough Council’s executive manager for communities, Dave Mitchell said: “This site has been identified as one of a number of many sites across the borough and is at the very earliest stage of being considered for potential development.
“The point of the local plan consultation is to gauge views on tens of site options such as this across Rushcliffe and Greater Nottingham to assess if there is a need for development in any given location and if so its potential positives and negatives.
“It is still to be decided which of the sites, if any at all, could be developed and we encourage all residents to have their say at www.gnplan.org.uk“
Newark MP Robert Jenrick, who is Secretary of State for Housing, said he would be seeking information as to the borough council's intention.