Plan consultation raises concerns over housing target
Hundreds attend meeting to discuss councils’ vision for the future
Councillors and members of the public packed into Colston Hall, East Common, to hear about Chiltern District Council (CDC) and South Bucks District Council’s (SBDC) new emerging joint Local Plan.
Town council chairman Chris Brown gave an introductory speech in which he explained the consultation process, followed by a short video by Graham Winwright, planning policy officer for SBDC and CDC, explaining what the plan entails.
Leader of SBDC, Ralphe Bagge, and portfolio holder for sustainable development, Nick Naylor, were grilled by members of the public during a question and answer session towards the end.
Many of the concerns raised were about the potential impact a large number of new homes would have on the town.
A number of other issues were raised during the lively public meeting, mainly focussing on the threat of the loss of green belt land, how the impact of HS2 would affect any developments, space allocated for travellers and a shortage of parking.
People also felt the advice of design, engineering and business consultatants, Arup, had been ignored when SBDC had published their plan, as maps suggest potential areas for development previously rejected by Arup. John Murphy, from Howards Thicket, said: “I note that of the four planning areas in this document, three are not recommended by Arup.
“When they reject a site or not recommend it there are some very good reasons for it.”
Anthony Walsh, from Lower Road, said that SBDC had employed Arup and using their ‘ expertise’ in ‘area specific detail’ had come to the conclusion that ‘they are not suitable parcels of land’.
He added: “You’re ignoring their advice. Why are you doing that, because it’s is illogical.”
And continued: “You can’t ignore the expertise of Arup as it’s based on land geography.”
Responding to these accusations Mr Bagge said that in the view of the council’s experts they found there had been ‘inconsistencies’ in Arup’s assessment.
Brian Lewis, Bull Lane, asked ‘on whose basis’ was an area of Bull Lane considered ‘when there are much more suitable areas for development’.
Mr Bagge repeatedly stressed the need to put these arguments forward into the ongoing public consultation.
Roger Austin said the number of new homes in the plan would amount to ‘five towns of the size of Gerrards Cross’ and added: “I don’t understand how you can get 15,000 houses into the space you have identified in a quite small space of land.”
But Mr Bagge said the there would not be 15,000 new homes built as Aylesbury Vale district will take some of the burden.
Roger, who did not give his surname, from South Park, summed up the feelings of many people there, saying: “We do not want houses to be built on the green belt. None of us want that. Why can’t you say that they can’t be build on brown belt?”
Mr Bagge said he was a ‘passionate advocate and supporter’ of the green belt, and added: “If we didn’t have to we wouldn’t do it.”
He added: “You have got to recognise there are forces outside our control.”
Speaking afterwards town councillor Jennifer Woolveridge, who was at the meeting along with Mr Brown, said she thought ‘it was a very amicable meeting’ and that ‘it all went quite well’.
She added that it was a ‘healthy meeting’ and it answered peoples’ questions.
She said: “I thought it was very admirable the gentleman who stood up and said at the end, get it online, answer as many questions as you can and tell all your neighbours to say the same – which is what we will be urging people to do.”
Mr Brown said afterwards that he thought it went very well, and added that his intention was to give people feedback and enough motivation that they can respond to the consultation.
He added: “Everybody should respond to it in their own right and give their input. It’s vitally important – the consultation is everything.”