Ninety-two per cent of residents do not want Chesterfield to become a full member of Sheffield City Region, according to an online poll set up by Derbyshire County Council.
More than 5,000 people took part in the poll on the proposals by Sheffield City Region – a group made up of Sheffield, Doncaster, Barnsley and Rotherham councils.
If the plans go ahead, responsibility would pass to a Sheffield Mayor and combined authority for key services in Chesterfield including major roads, public transport, travel concessions and investment projects.
Councillor Anne Western, leader of the county council, said: “It’s clear residents do not want Chesterfield to become a suburb of Sheffield − which is effectively what will happen if these plans go ahead.
“I do not believe these plans from Sheffield City Region are in the interests of any of the county’s residents, especially those in Chesterfield.
“The proposals are part of a 30-year plan so if Chesterfield becomes a full member it will affect the county’s largest town and beyond for generations to come.”
As previously reported, Chesterfield Borough Council leader John Burrows said the proposed deal would be good for the town, bringing millions of pounds of investment as well as jobs, skills and housing.
Chesterfield MP Toby Perkins also backs the plans and said he has written to constituents who have contacted him about the proposals and received a ‘very positive’ response.
He added: “I’m sad that opponents of the plans have sought to deliberately cause confusion about Chesterfield’s identity as a Derbyshire town rather than focussing on how we ensure Chesterfield gets the necessary tools to regenerate our area.
“There is no question of Chesterfield ever moving out of Derbyshire.
“Becoming full members of the combined authority means we will be able to access funding which simply wouldn’t otherwise be available.
“We have recently seen approval for more than £5million for the Northern Gateway from Sheffield City Region.”
Alexis Diouf, leader of Chesterfield Liberal Democrats, said: “Whether we like it or not the only way to access new funding which will bring economic regeneration is by being part of such a deal – and there is no other body available to join.”
Chesterfield Conservatives, meanwhile, have called for a local referendum on the subject.
The county council is seeking permission from the High Court in London for a judicial review into a public consultation about the proposals.
Action was taken by the county council after Sheffield City Region ignored its calls to withdraw the consultation amid fundamental concerns that it was ‘misleading and flawed’.
Coun Western said: “I know we’ll be criticised for taking this action by some who claim it’s not the best use of money.
“But the fact is that if Chesterfield becomes a full member of Sheffield City Region it will undoubtedly be at a huge financial cost to the county council − and therefore Derbyshire taxpayers − in making our services fit in with new arrangements for Chesterfield, not to mention around £1million in business rates from Markham Vale which would all be transferred to Sheffield City Region.”
A spokesman for Sheffield City Region said: “We are clearly disappointed that a legal challenge has been raised on our consultation process and we are currently taking legal advice.”