Minutes of the public meeting

Held on Wednesday, 5th April 2023 at 6 pm in Hartington Village Hall

Proposal: a café and cheese shop with a small, upstairs heritage centre upstairs with parking for 50 cars.

Present:  Five members of Hartington Town Quarter Parish Council, the clerk to the parish council and approximately 100 members of the public, including the applicants from Hartington Creamery.

Mr Annat, Chairman of Hartington Town Quarter Parish Council, (the parish council) opened the public meeting providing some background information of the experience of representing the community through previous public enquiries connected to the housing development on the former cheese factory site.  He further acknowledged that a formal planning application will follow together with a significant number of letters of representation.   Mr Annat further acknowledged the importance of working together with the Peak District National Park Authority (PDNPA).  If the parish council opposes the formal planning application, then the application will go before the planning committee at PDNPA.  If a proposal is subsequently opposed by the planning committee, then this will lead to the application going through an appeals procedure. 

 The purpose of the public meeting was to gauge public opinion and to engage with the applicants, prior to the receipt of a formal planning application.  It was acknowledged that further public meetings may follow.  A show of hands was invited indicating a significant majority against the proposal.  Members of the public were invited to state their names, prior to speaking and these have been recorded in the draft minutes taken at the time.

Speaker 1 asked about the presence of a legal covenant drawn up by the previous owners of the site, Long Clawson.  Mr Annat confirmed this to be the case preventing the manufacture and sale of cheese on the complete site, including the green fields sold by Long Clawson.

Speaker 2 stated that the purchasers of the new houses on the development were not informed of any proposal for a commercial venture at the site and this would have affected their decision to purchase a property.  He also objected to the position of this proposed building.

Speaker 3 raised concerns about possible increases in parking in the village as a consequence of the proposal.  Whilst parking provision has been included within the proposal, it could be inadequate.

Speaker 4 commented on a well-known fact that Stonewell Lane is a narrow lane without a pedestrian pavement.  An whilst this was also an issue during the former cheese factory operations, many employees arrived by coaches and not multiple individual cars.  Of significant importance, she raised the impact on existing cheese retail businesses and those selling food such as tea rooms and public houses.  Setting a precedent for a business on a green field site would be dangerous.

Mr Annat acknowledged the previous traffic issues connected to the former cheese factory site.  He advised that ‘green space’ is included in the Neighbourhood Plan which is now nearing completion.   From the Neighbourhood Plan public questionnaire, the responses state that this green space is retained.

 Speaker 5 asked if the applicant would confirm what is proposed inside the building and how they could explain its need. 

Mr Annat stated this was a giant café and cheese shop with a small, upstairs heritage centre upstairs with parking for 50 cars.  He did; however, advise that the public should be aware that initial applications can be approved and then changed for something else and this can happen a lot.

Speaker 6 suggested that the commercial legal covenant on the land may not be totally relied upon.

Mr Annat reiterated that the green field connected to this proposal is open farm land, never previously built on but acknowledged the history of cheese making in Hartington.  He also asked ‘Why Hartington?’ when Hartington Creamery operates from Pikehall.  PDNPA policy favours the re-use of existing buildings.  This proposal is a massive new building.

Speaker 7 suggested he had been open minded as the plans may well change but even if it could develop into a net benefit to the residents, poor access, impact on existing businesses; loss of green space; loss of biodiversity and impact on traffic and tourism meant he would not support this.

Mr Annat stated that Hartington is a DS1 Settlement.  PDNPA policy states that any development must generate lots of net benefit to the settlement.

Speaker 8 suggested that 12-18 months ago, an idea was muted that a cheese factory type business may be built on this site.  During public enquiries, one idea was to convert a redundant building to a museum and that was disregarded by the developer.  As the former cheese factory decayed, nobody disagreed that the factory should be dismantled for houses but in a national park, how can green fields be built on.  She later stated that the first developer to acquire the site had planned 66 houses on the site which following the involvement of the ‘amateur villagers’ had been reduced to 26 suggesting that the village has a precedence in succeeding arguing a case.

Speaker 9 reiterated that this project will ruin existing small village businesses.

Mr Annat acknowledged that existing business cannot be protected as it could be considered fair competition but the adverse effect would be against policy.  Is another giant cheese shop required?

Speaker 10 asked if the proposal was granted, what would the time line be?

Mr Annat stated that if the parish were to vigorously oppose the actual plans once received, and time was taken for planning officers to take to committee then the timeline could approach a number of months.  The parish council will see proper advice but based on the number of houses and residents in the parish, this proposal would be considered a major development impacting on the community and from previous public enquiries, this would also be a major undertaking for a developer.  He further raised that the noise level from cheese refrigeration would not be inconsequential.

Speaker 11 raised concerns over flooding as a consequence of a large concrete/tarmac car park being laid on a field already subject to drainage issues.

Speaker 12 had been involved in previous enquiries and stated that Hartington is a unique village and it should be kept as it is.

The parish council believe in the power of the community and will scrutinise this proposal and any evolving plans every step of the way.

Speaker 1 further stated that from previous political pressure involving the MP regarding the housing development, this proposal should be opposed vigorously and a lot of effort should be put into this course.  He stated that he did not want it; there is no value in it; it is a retail park which could even become an event centre which would ‘kill’ the existing village hall.

Mr Annat pointed out that Hartington Creamery may be the initial applicant but may not remain so and does not imply ownership of a building will stay with the applicant.  Mr Annat asked the audience if a building was wanted and the public response was, ‘No’.

The applicant was asked if a cheese themed centre would not be better sited at Pikehall, along with the factory but the applicant confirmed that there was not sufficient room there.  The applicant will invite their own experts to explain matters further at another public meeting in the near future.

Speaker 13 wished to encourage the parish council to have clear communication and adhere to facts. 

It was acknowledged that this is an emotive subject but parish council and the PDNPA will not be emotive in reaching decisions.  Mr Annat would like to see planning officers working with the parish council on this proposal.

Speaker 14 confirmed he was not a resident but wanted the parish council to follow process and questioned that the parish council members had already made their mind up and questioned some language used throughout the discussion process and questioned whether some of the audience had not spoken in support.  Hartington will remain associated with the story of cheese making.

Mr Annat acknowledged that the village and its residents remain proud of the cheese making heritage but a large building of this size is not required to honour this.  In November 2021, the PDNPA had been contacted regarding opposition to this proposal; however, the parish council will now await a regularised application.

The applicants will enlist their own consultation process and the parish council will listen.

The public meeting was declared closed at 7.00 pm with thanks to all in attendance.

Minutes prepared by the clerk to the parish council.

6th April 2023