Aylesbury MP responds to White Paper on Planning

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.

  1. 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.

If you have any questions about any of this, please write to info@hfag.com

The HFAG Committee

And what’s happening with the South East Aylesbury Link Road?

The impact on landscape and visual impact has been criticised by one of the Council’s planners. Responding to the consultation in July, he writes:

“… it is my opinion that the submitted landscape and visual impact assessment somewhat underestimates the level of residual impact of the proposed development. (HFAG emboldening added)

In my opinion the proposed development will result in significant adverse residual landscape and visual effects to the both the receiving landscape and to visual receptors (including users of Public Rights of Way, areas of public open space and residents) along the southern edge of Aylesbury that lies to the north of the application site as well as to other similar receptors to the north east, south east, south west and south of the application site.

As such I would invite you to place appropriate negative weight in the balance when considering the landscape and visual effects of the proposed development in any planning consideration.”

In other words, the author is suggesting that the impact will be worse than the road application team are claiming.

What’s happening with the Vale of Aylesbury Plan?

Late last month, the Inspector disclosed his next steps. The Council is going to publish its replies to our representations and those of others. They will also be making further modifications to the Plan. (Surprise, surprise!)

These will be put out for further consultation. You can be confident that HFAG will be commenting as hard as we can, including pressing for a renewed public hearing on transport and any other area that deserves it.

The Inspector will then consider all the responses and decide whether a public hearing is justified.

We will let you know when the consultation starts.

The campaign continues!

Hampy Anniversary!

No, that is not a misprint. It is just that October 26th was the third anniversary of the District Council’s decision to give planning officers the job of negotiating over the planning applications for ‘Hampden Fields’ and ‘Floodlands’ (aka Woodlands).

With so much of the plan already drafted, you’d have thought that this would have been relatively straightforward. Certainly not three years’ worth (and counting).

Maybe the arguments raised by this Action Group and many others back in October 2017 and carried on since did have some weight after all. Which means that …

the campaign continues!

New readers start here!

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!

On watch for you

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.

“An enormous gap between Garden Town vision and the development likely to be built in reality”

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.

Nearly time to put in our latest challenge

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.

HFAG on the case

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.

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