BBC reporter Peter Gibbs recently visited Aylesbury to assess the chances of the Garden Town vision coming true. Listen to the episode ‘Build, Build, Build’ in the radio 4 series ‘Costing the Earth’ to hear what he found.
It’s easy for people involved in a years-long campaign to forget that not everyone knows all about it. So if ‘Hampden Fields’ means nothing to you, perhaps because you have just moved in to the area, here is a quick cheat sheet for your information.
2012: A proposal is submitted for 3,000 houses to be built filling the open countryside between Weston Turville and Aylesbury Bedgrove. Hampden Fields Action Group HFAG is formed by local residents.
2015: HFAG’s campaign succeeds in getting the plans rejected by planning inspector and Sec of State for Local Government. Traffic congestion and the weakness of the Council’s plans to handle it are two of the main reasons for the decision.
2016: An almost identical planning application is submitted by Hampden Fields consortium. (To see what is proposed, click here to go to the council webpage). HFAG resume our campaign.
2017: The District Council planning committee defer planning permission, instead asking officers to negotiate a detailed draft agreement with the developers. Not yet done (July 2020).
2018: HFAG appear before the Planning Inspector examining the draft Vale of Aylesbury Local Plan. After our submission on traffic, the Inspector comments that the council’s transport plan — a key element in the main plan, of course — appears rather “rough and ready”.
2019: HFAG fundraising continues while we wait for progress. And wait. And wait.
2020: A planning application is submitted for the South East Aylesbury Link Road SEALR, part of Bucks Council’s aspirational but flawed ‘orbital road strategy’. HFAG present independent transport analysis to support our objection.
The campaign continues!
The plans affecting our area are like a set of Russian dolls. Each one fits inside a larger one. So we need to keep an eye on any change to any of the set. Here they are, in descending order of size and scope.
The Vale of Aylesbury Plan VALP. We are pressing for a resumed public hearing and await the Inspector’s next decision.
Hampden Fields and Woodlands: We continue to look out for any changes to the Section 106 negotiations. These will determine what gets built and what gets funded.
South East Aylesbury Link Road SEALR: we have put in detailed objections to the planning application and await the Council’s response and any public meeting.
If anything changes, we will let you know here.
Strong criticism of Aylesbury appears in a new report by ‘Transport for New Homes’. Investigators assessed 32 new Garden Towns and Villages in England to see whether they were likely to be different from car-based estates. Their findings? Our title says it all.
Here are the specific references to Aylesbury:
Ring road “Garden Towns such as … Aylesbury are to expand by building new estates along new sections of ring road around the outskirts of the town. This ring road model of development divides communities as much as connecting them.”
Vision versus reality “The vision for Aylesbury Garden Town from the Local Plan is encouraging: ‘By 2033, Aylesbury will have grown and be an inclusive, innovative and forward-looking Garden Town …with public transport and interchange offering a diverse choice of travel modes, and a recognised centre for investment and growth providing new jobs and opportunities for all.'” But then “Garden towns such as Aylesbury … were to expand with a ring of new suburbs, these connected along new sections of ring road. We have seen this model before in many places, and the result is very much car-based development. The new homes are not on connected streets but in ‘bubbles’ around the fringe of town. Accepting that new estates create more and more traffic and adding lots of extra road capacity as a consequence, was the order of the day.”
Cycling routes an add-on “Aylesbury has a number of cycling routes but even there the cycle paths are along main roads going out of towns to the new estate and seem to be add-ons to the dominant road system rather than designed as part of a cycling and walking network from the start.”
Potential unfulfilled? “Garden towns such as Aylesbury and Bicester were planned on a scale that could have been transformational. However we found that the lack of sufficient and timely investment in place-making, town centre uplift and regeneration, public transport and active travel, may well mean any transformational potential is lost. What we found was car based sprawl developing around the edges of garden towns, with funding for new ring roads or motorway junctions. The garden villages were typically small discrete settlements, and we thought that their size and location close to major road junctions, would mean these places would be unlikely to function self-sufficiently.”
We shall see. But another, independent warning has been sounded to add to those that the Hampden Fields Acion Group have been making for years now. Tine will tell. But by then it will be too late.
For the entire report click here.
With great insights from an independent transport consultant, HFAG have been hard at work preparing our response to the latest “link road” planing application. This is for the SEALR, a 1.2 km stretch of road to the south east of Aylesbury scheduled to cost £23m. Our submission will appear here later this week.
A quiet battle is going on behind the scenes. In March, the District Council surprised everyone by publishing a new traffic planning framework that requires all developers of major schemes like Hampden Fields to update their traffic forecasts. We engaged our transport experts to scrutinise this ‘Aylesbury Transport Model 2020’ and are working on submissions to the Local Plan Inspector and the Council as a result.
We are also preparing our response to the new planning application for the South East Aylesbury Link Road (SEALR). Many things wrong with this, and we will be getting expert analysis to help our case.
Both of these relate directly to Hampden Fields because the transport forecasts lie at the heart of the case the Council is trying to make to get the houses built.
AVDC posted on 30 March: “We had intended to send the representations and the Council’s responses to the issues raised in them to the Inspector in mid-April. However the Council has prioritised its response to the current Covid-19 crisis and as a result some Council officers involved in preparing the responses to the representations have now been seconded to Covid-19 work. It is therefore not possible to give a definitive answer at this stage as to when we will be in a position to send the information to the Inspector, but we will continue to focus on achieving this as soon as possible and more information will be put on the website when it is available.”
Bucks County Council announced that the 11 March Budget (remember that?!) had awarded them £170m for infrastructure. In a telling phrase, Leader Martin Tett said that the Council would now be “looking at the detail of the funding conditions.” Your Action Group have sent in a Freedom of Information request to ask what these conditions are. If that sounds esoteric, it isn’t. Any Government money for major road building requires BCC’s traffic planning to meet a stringent Dept for Transport standard, which the current plans do not. If BCC are hoping to slide past these conditions, we will vigorously challenge them.
After years of assuring developers and Councillors that BCC’s traffic modelling was robust, AVDC Planning have now admitted that a new ‘Aylesbury Transport model 2020’ has to be used instead. This means that the traffic elements of the developments have to be re-done. In her letter to developers dated 6 March, AVDC Corporate Planner Susan Kitchen admits that she appreciates “this will inevitably result in additional work and delay.” Environmental Statements will also have to be reviewed and where necessary reworked.
HFAG have argued that the traffic modelling was flawed all along. We have made the point strongly at every public hearing .
We have already started work to scrutinise the new model and will challenge any weaknesses that we find.