ONE MONTH TO GO!

On February 23rd and 24th we go into court with our Judicial Review claim against the Council – the culmination of ten years of hard work on your behalf.     

We do not yet know whether the case will be heard in open court or by internet link. But please hold the date.  As soon as we hear, we will let you know. 

We were also very pleased recently to receive a generous additional donation towards any extra legal costs that may arise.  We are grateful for this and also for the confidence in our cause that it shows.

The campaign continues!    

ALARM AT LACK OF HEALTHCARE FACILITIES FOR WOODLANDS DEVELOPMENT

As well as issues over transport and flooding, HFAG are very concerned about inadequate local plans for healthcare.  At Hampden Fields, it’s a “take it or leave it” offer of a small GP surgery that the NHS have been saying for years is not what is needed. At the neighbouring Woodlands, it’s not even that — just a piece of land. Remember that this is for a population increase on the scale of a small town. 

To anyone thinking, ‘Oh, I’m sure they will sort something out — healthcare is so important’, just look at this recent posting from Kingsbrook Parish Council:  

Current healthcare provisions are struggling to cope with existing patient numbers. With the growth of Kingsbrook and lack of healthcare provision being added, despite S106 obligations, the Parish Council feels that another development without healthcare provisions will make the situation untenable.” (Emphasis added) 

Section 106 is the law that obliges a developer to provide infrastructure such as schools, roads, and healthcare facilities to offset the impact of their development. It is a legal contract, a firm promise that must be kept. 

So, what was the clear promise in the Kingsbrook prospectus? “You’ll feel better in no time thanks to the on-site doctor’s surgery, with 3 full-time doctors on-hand, ready and waiting to help. Kingsbrook also has a pharmacy conveniently located right next to the doctor’s surgery, meaning that you can take care of all your medical needs in the comfort and convenience of your own community.”

There are Section 106 plans for Hampden Fields and Woodlands. Might residents there find themselves in the same position as people at Kingsbrook?  Not if HFAG can help it.

The campaign continues!   

A court date for Hampden Fields.  And is ‘Woodlands’ safe from flooding?

We have now heard that our claim for judicial review of the Hampden Fields decision is to come before the court on 23  and 24 February.  Work to prepare for this is continuing. We will keep you informed

On the proposed ‘Woodlands’ development that adjoins Hampden Fields, we are not alone in having concerns about the risk of flooding.

The site lies on the north side of the A41 and includes an estate of 1,100 houses.  The area is on a flood plain, with the Bear Brook, Burcott Brook and Drayton Mead Ditch all flowing through or round it.  The developer (basically Buckinghamshire Council itself) therefore has to conduct a detailed and thorough Flood Risk Assessment to test the risks and make sure that houses, roads, and other public areas are safe.

Well, they are now on the fourth go at this piece of vital work.  Having worked on it since 2016, they have still not been able to satisfy the Environment Agency that the Assessment is sound.  In a recent letter, the EA stated,  “In the absence of an acceptable Flood Risk Assessment (FRA) we maintain our objection to this application and recommend that planning permission is refused.”

They went on to say that the FRA did not “adequately assess the flood risks posed by the development.”  This, after years to get it right.  

Even if the developers find a way to convince the EA and get the assessment approved, the fact that it has taken so long and so much effort to work this out leaves us with a worry about their competence. Flooding is not 100% predictable, as we have seen many times, not least in Weston Turville last year.  How safe will Woodlands be?  What difficulties might the owners of the 1,100 new properties face in getting their new homes insured?  What will be the impact of Woodlands on neighbouring areas including ‘Hampden Fields’ and downstream towards Aylesbury and beyond? 

We are, of course, raising this with the planning authority and the Environment Agency.  

SAFETY OF PLANNED ROAD CHALLENGED AT PUBLIC ENQUIRY

At a recent public inquiry, the safety of the planned Southeast Aylesbury Link Road (SEALR) was again called into question.  

HFAG made strong representations to the Buckinghamshire Council planning committee in January 2021 on this very topic. Quoting the council’s own Road Safety Audit, we pointed out our concern that on the SEALR – a one-mile straight stretch of dual carriageway — vehicles would be very likely to travel at excessive speed.  The same point was made by Thames Valley Police, who expect some drivers to go at “much higher speeds” than intended by the designers. 

Those designers and the wider council ignored these warnings and concerns.  They have refused to alter the straightness of the road, arguing that ‘constraints of the scheme’ justify their decision.  

Just as bad is that the SEALR is not even going to have laybys for speed enforcement vehicles. These had been requested by the police as a second best to provide at least “some deterrent strategy”. Talk about planning to fail!

These points and others were strongly made by Phil Yerby supporting local residents at the public enquiry into a compulsory purchase order required for the SEALR scheme.  Whether the planning Inspector accepts these arguments or not, they have at least been made in public.  

There must be a concern that the Council could be building a new ‘Mad Mile’ at Aylesbury.  

BUNDLES, SKELETONS AND OTHER THINGS

Our Judicial Review case recently came forward to The Honourable Mr Justice Dove. He has ruled that the Planning Court will be asked to decide whether to grant us permission to make the case.  If it does, the formal hearing will take place immediately.  We naturally hope that permission will be granted so that our case can be heard in court. 

The judge also ruled that the court may take account of statements from two NHS senior managers. The Council wanted them disregarded. The statements strongly support our case over the inadequate provision for healthcare. 

It has also been confirmed that the costs we would have to pay to the Council if we were to lose would be limited to £10,000. We expected this, but it’s good to have it confirmed.  

Bundles? They are the groups of documents from which the court will need to work.  Mr Justice Dove rules that both sides need to agree what is most relevant – could be an interesting process.  

And skeletons? These are summaries of the main points each side wishes to make – what you might call the bare bones of their case.  (No Hallowe’en jokes, please!) 

JUDICIAL REVIEW LATEST, AND HFAG OBJECT TO WOODLANDS OVER HEALTHCARE 

Our Claimant’s Reply to Bucks Council’s long-winded defence over ‘Hampden Fields’ went to the court on 21 September. Despite the council’s many pages, our barrister feels that they have not been able to put up a good defence against our case.  In fact, they exposed themselves to a new angle of attack, which our barrister has now added to our claim papers.  

(When we say, ‘long-winded’, we mean just that. At 543 pages, the council’s defence submission and a witness statement from developer Taylor Wimpey are many times longer than our barrister’s closely argued 49 pages. We believe that the court will not be impressed by the council’s book-length submission when compared to our case, which has clarity and impact. Especially when, for example, Bucks and Taylor Wimpey aren’t even consistent with one another! But we suspect a deliberate tactic here, namely piling up extra papers that our lawyers must work through, which adds to our costs.)

We now await the judge’s decision whether to grant permission for us to proceed to the hearing itself.  

In other news, on 3 October HFAG made a further strong objection to the ‘Woodlands’ application.  As with ‘Hampden Fields’, a developer is rejecting the NHS’s reasonable requests for funds to alleviate the adverse impacts of the increased population.  The Woodands scheme includes up to 1,100 new dwellings. All those residents will expect adequate GP / clinic / hospital facilities. Our letter contains six strong arguments on this.   

Stay in touch with these and other topics on hfag.net.

Is there a risk of flooding at Hampden Fields and Woodlands?

HFAG have written to the Environment Agency and Bucks Council to express concern over the risk of flooding affecting Woodlands and Hampden Fields.  The technicalities are complex, but basically the Woodlands developer (in effect, Bucks Council!) appears to be using an out of date flood map, which conveniently favours their case, rather than the more recent Environment Agency one, which doesn’t.  

Furthermore, the recently adopted Vale Plan bans development on a flood plain.  Yet, in a delicious irony, that is just what is proposed for Woodlands, a major part of area AGT3 contained in … er … the Vale Plan. The Council’s proposed development may therefore be in breach of their own latest policy!  Not to mention the National Planning Policy Framework and the Aston Clinton Neighbourhood Plan.

Finally, the developer’s flood map worryingly shows an increased risk of flooding affecting the Hampden Fields area.  This could have an adverse impact on the surface water drainage for that estate.  If you need any reminders of what that can mean, here are some images courtesy of Vicki Walker.

All these points and more have been clearly set out in our letters.  


STOP PRESS:
The Environment Agency has today (24/9) written to the Council maintaining their objection to the development on grounds of flood risk. 

Part of the ‘Hampden Fields’ site, July 2021
Part of the ‘Hampden Fields’ site, July 2021

CLAIM, DEFENCE, REBUTTAL

Our Judicial Review case continues.  As predicted in our 19 August update, the council has now put in their defence against our claim. We have examined this in detail. Many of the points the council seek to make are inaccurate, incomplete, or even in some cases appear to have little to do with our claim.  

A major focus of the case is the inadequacy of healthcare provision in the ‘Hampden Fields’ proposal and how this has been mishandled by the council.  The importance of adequate future healthcare facilities goes without saying.  

So, we are working closely with our solicitors and barrister to prepare the most carefully thought-through and most strongly expressed rebuttal of the council’s latest statement.

As always, if you have any questions about this case, do get in touch via info@hfag.net.

Best wishes from Chris, Glynn, John, Peter, Phil and Roger

Inspector finally approves Vale of Aylesbury Local Plan, but criticises transport planning

After years of preparation and over three years of being examined by a Government Inspector, the VALP has finally been approved.  This, while disappointing, is not surprising given the amount of effort that the Council have had to put into both creating and modifying the proposals.

It should be noted that the transport element of the Plan, which HFAG contested so long and hard, was subject to considerable criticism in the final report.  Here are some examples: 


The key infrastructure requirements on which delivery of the plan depends should be contained in the Local Plan itself. VALP does not do this and so is unsound as submitted.”

Again, “National Guidance calls for the preparation of a transport assessment at a number of stages in the preparation of a local plan, the first being as part of the initial evidence base in terms of issues and opportunities. This stage seems to have been omitted from the process of preparing VALP.”

“It is not clear that the [transport] schemes were originally conceived with that purpose [mitigating the problems identified in 2016] in mind.  In consequence, the nature of the issues or problems which the transport schemes are seeking to address is hidden.”

“The [Aylesbury Transport] model is not well calibrated…”

“There will also need to be a focus on improving north/south connectivity to enable the district to function better in relation to national highway networks and rail networks but there is no identifiable highway proposal in pursuit of this objective.”

This is small consolation for everyone who worked so hard for better transport and a better VALP, but at least it shows that the campaign was well worth pursuing.

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