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More Development Concerns?

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Oxford-Cambridge corridor

Your editor is particularly conscious of the frequent coverage this website provides in respect of the building projects that are rapidly extending the boundaries of our village. For some, such development is an inevitable and necessary consequence of the desperate need for new homes in the UK. For others, it seems to spell the end of a village-scale community that Haddenham residents have enjoyed for decades.

Surely, one theme we can all agree on, however, is the importance of having a democratic mechanism by which current residents can have a say in the way that Haddenham develops?

Our Neighbourhood Plan was intended to provide such a mechanism. Despite the considerable (voluntary) time and effort that went into its compilation, this failed to deliver the influence it was supposed to.

The delayed completion of AVDC's Local Plan (VALP) has also created lots of opportunities for developers, as we are all too well aware.

But recently we have learned of a much larger, regional level initiative that appears to be gathering momentum without any input from residents and local bodies. Roderick Floud, Chairman of the Haddenham Village Society outlines the situation below.

The Oxford-Cambridge Corridor

The Government invited the National Infrastructure Commission (NIC) to consider the requirements of an "Oxford — Milton Keynes — Cambridge corridor" of high-tech business and higher education. The Commission has supported the east-west rail link along the corridor but also believes that there is a need for an express road and for significant additional housing.

Buckinghamshire County Council has supported the upgrading of the A418 as part of the express road and this is currently being investigated by the NIC. In its interim report, the NIC also expressed support for two new settlements, possibly of 4500-6500 houses each, in both Winslow and Haddenham, to provide the housing that would be needed to support this economic activity.

As chair of the Haddenham Village Society, I wrote to John Bercow MP to express the Society's concern that Haddenham residents and its Parish Council had not been consulted about this far-reaching proposal; he passed my letter to the NIC. Lord Adonis, the Chair of the NIC, replied that he would be willing to consider comments on the proposal — although there is currently no public consultation on it — and I am grateful that David Truesdale, Chair of the Parish Council, has joined me in writing the letter below.

Letter to Lord Adonis
National Infrastructure Commission

Dear Lord Adonis

We write as, respectively, the Chairman of Haddenham Parish Council and the Chairman of the Haddenham Village Society, together representing nearly 5000 residents, to object to proposals to locate a new settlement in or near the village, as part of the Oxford-Cambridge corridor.

Haddenham, (Buckinghamshire) despite its historic and current size, retains the characteristics of a village — clustered round a large and beautiful conservation area — rather than of a town. The village nevertheless recognises the need for new housing and, in its neighbourhood plan, accepted overwhelmingly by residents, agreed to accept an additional 430 dwellings between now and 2033. Since then AVDC has published its draft local plan which increases this number to 1000 and it is generally accepted as Haddenham's contribution to the housing needs of Aylesbury Vale.

The village will struggle to absorb a 50% expansion and these new residents — perhaps 3500 of them — particularly as developers have now received or are seeking planning permission for immediate construction, rather than spreading growth over a 15 year period. All of them are citing the demand created by the proximity of Haddenham and Thame Parkway station and the M40; they essentially envisage creating a commuter community, without the mix of economic activity and social infrastructure which would be desirable.

The proposal now being considered by the National Infrastructure Commission for a new settlement of possibly 6500 houses would put further and intolerable strain on the village and its residents and facilities, as well as on transport links. It would, in essence, create an urban sprawl between Aylesbury and Thame, along the A418, with only minimal green space between large housing developments, utilizing high-quality agricultural land of considerable environmental value at the foot of the Chilterns. It is suggested that higher level services are available at Thame, but Thame is already struggling to cope with the growth imposed on it by South Oxfordshire District Council. There seems to be little or no joined up thinking between authorities.

Many other objections can be made to the proposal — the congested approaches to Oxford from the east, the impact of HS2, the lack of educational and social infrastructure, the constraints (already apparent) on capacity on the Chiltern Line. Despite requests, no funding has been made available for a transport assessment to look at the impact of the increased traffic, including HGVs during construction, on local village roads. These were not built to cope with the volume and weight of traffic and are deteriorating rapidly, with minimal funding for repairs or improvement. The impact of the traffic on the conservation area and listed buildings has not been properly assessed or mitigated and there is an increasing problem with parking, in particular close to the station. There is no sign that these immediate and long-term costs have been assessed or taken into account in the proposal.

We ask that our objections be fully considered by the Commission and that, before any decision is taken, Commissioners and their consultants visit Haddenham and see for themselves the community and the environment which these proposals would irrevocably change.

David Truesdale, Chairman HPC
Sir Roderick Floud, Chairman HVS

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