MP Rob Butler has made what we see as an important response to the Government’s White Paper on ‘Planning for the Future’.
In particular, HFAG agrees wholeheartedly with five specific points Mr Butler makes, not least because we have been saying something similar for years during our campaign for better planning in and around Aylesbury. Here they are.
- The MP points out that a preference for building on greenfield sites in ‘growth’ areas risks urban sprawl. The assumption that greenfield development is necessary should be “strongly discouraged”. ‘Hampden Fields’ and ‘Woodlands’ are, of course, exactly that sort of greenfield development.
- Urban extensions should not lead to a coalescence of villages, with existing villages not merged with a larger settlement in one conurbation. Rob goes on to name Weston Turville and Aston Clinton as examples of villages at risk of conurbation with Aylesbury should endless expansion continue. The Action Group raised this very point in our submissions to Councillors and the Planning Committee in 2016 and 2017, and Natural England have also applied the phrase “urban sprawl” to the development.
- On flooding, automatic planning permission should not apply to areas where flooding is a risk. Nor should water be displaced elsewhere. Aylesbury has suffered such problems before. We agree, and ‘Woodlands’ is just such another proposal. Aided by an environmental consultant, we have made strong arguments against allowing that development to be built right across a national Flood Plain 3.
- Infrastructure upgrades must take account of the needs of present and future populations. Infrastructure in Aylesbury is already under considerable pressure. In agreeing with this point, we would add that infrastructure plans must be objectively modelled and assessed. We have long argued that transport plans, in particular, are not sound, a point agreed by the Secretary of State in 2015 and still under examination for the latest Vale Plan. Not to mention provision for school places and healthcare facilities.
- Finally, under a heading of ‘democratic engagement’, the MP contrasts the White Paper’s proposals to introduce automatic consent with the anxiety felt by a significant number of his constituents. HFAG has championed democratic engagement for the best part of ten years, holding public meetings and investing time and supporters’ funds so that we can make well thought out, powerful representations to elected representatives at District, County and national government levels. ‘Engagement’ is one of HFAG’s five focus areas and we continue to work hard to engage with everyone involved in these important decisions. We welcome Rob Butler’s emphasis on this.
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The HFAG Committee