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By Haddenham Webteam - 13th February 2017 2:30pm
At the latter end of last month, David Truesdale (Chairman of Haddenham Parish Council's Planning Committee) gave a presentation at the AGM of the Haddenham Village Society in which he provided an overview of recent events and planning decisions impacting the village. Here is his report.
What a year it's been! Twelve months ago, at the last Village Society AGM, I ran through some of the issues that could potentially affect us. Looking back at my notes, I see we talked about the likelihood of AVDC having to take overspill housing from neighbouring local authorities because of the duty to co-operate, and we noted that AVDC had commissioned a feasibility study about finding a site for a new settlement.
By the summer, AVDC had published its draft VALP for public consultation. We found we were facing not only 50% growth by about 1000 homes, as a given, but also the possibility of a new settlement of maybe 6000 homes either immediately to the west of the station, or between us and Princes Risborough, to meet the housing needs of neighbouring authorities.
What we didn't anticipate 12 months ago was:
- having our newly made NP Neighbourhood Plan challenged in Court at judicial review;
- not being supported by our local authority; and
- being obliged to agree to the critical housing & development chapter being quashed
resulting not surprisingly in resentment at the apparent futility of all the hard work which had gone into preparing the NP and ensuring a major vote of support by local residents, and cynicism about the Government's localism agenda generally.
It will be cold comfort to know that our community is not alone in our feelings about what happened, and I did get the opportunity in October to go to the House of Commons to tell our story to a group of MPs, and to make several suggestions for changes, which NALC National Association of Local Councils has taken forward.
So what can we expect to see happening over the coming weeks and months?
Firstly: Publication by the Government of a delayed housing White Paper. The Government is determined to do all it can to enable and encourage housing and infrastructure investment — including the promotion of garden towns and new village settlements. You probably saw the announcement at the start of January that Aylesbury has been selected as one of three garden cities in England — which will get it more resources for infrastructure. (Incidentally the founding principles behind Letchworth Garden City of community ownership and the rise in value being captured for future community investment aren't on the table).
Secondly, you got a sense of the Government's purpose with the Chancellor's autumn statement which agreed, amongst other things, to fund both a new railway and expressway linking Oxford & Cambridge via Milton Keynes. These had been recommended in a report published just before the autumn statement by the National Infrastructure Commission, which is a relatively new quango, and one with a lot of clout.
The NIC's report shows 3 possible options for the line of the expressway from Oxford to MK; the southern option is effectively a new A418 from Oxford via Aylesbury. I understand that Bucks County Council (our local highway authority) is pressing for this route, and no doubt AVDC will too, following the garden city announcement. The NIC report also said that in its view, both Haddenham & Winslow should go ahead as new settlements, even if this meant providing more homes than strictly necessary. By the way, the NIC has been pitching to include major housing investment in its remit. Watch this space.
Thirdly, subject to any delays brought about by the late appearance of the Government White Paper, we can expect to see the final draft VALP in March, when it will make its way through AVDC's various Committees. Early signs are that the target housing number will be lowered from 32,000 to about 27,000. This may mean that the urgency for a new settlement is reduced. But as I have said, AVDC is facing pressures from other quarters. The current best guess is that a new settlement will remain in the Plan in principle, but given a longer time frame for review, decision and ultimate implementation — perhaps pushing it towards the next plan period post 2032 (which itself isn't so long away).
Finally, the PC is spending a lot of time on NP-related issues. We have been responding to the various site proposals arising from being a strategic settlement, all but one of which were in the quashed chapter. Besides making comments on the planning applications, this includes saying how we want the S106 contributions to be utilised for sports & recreation. We said this time last year that the PC would be setting up a community facilities committee to work with village sports & leisure groups on their future plans, which we have been doing. The major sites so far are:
1. Airfield industrial site (in particular we have met twice with DAF who are transferring their UK HQ and national training facility from Thame)
2. Airfield housing site — where the PC will be getting a new sports facility and a dowry towards a pavilion — so we have set out our requirements for football pitches, and started thinking about the pavilion
3. Both the Dollicott housing sites with Cala Homes & WE Black
4. Stanbridge Rd site with Rectory Homes where we successfully asked for the footpath to be extended to the garden centre, and the 30pmh limit to be moved southwards
5. Any time now: the Aston Rd site. Latest is that the Diocese and the other landowner have appointed a developer subject to due diligence checks, and will be approaching us shortly. In preparation we are commissioning design help to formulate a brief for the open space at the western end (Church End) of the site to provide a new burial ground, cricket pitch, and a suitable multi-purpose building.
We have met with the County Council's highway people about commissioning a review of traffic/parking/circulation/conservation issues both within and beyond the village. We have also talked to County who are alert to the impact of growth on our schools, and we have asked for a scheme to extending the granite setts at Church End to counter erosion of the verges caused largely by parent parking likely to be exacerbated by the recently approved growth of St. Mary's School by 4 classrooms — see report here.
We have deferred any decision about reviewing & updating the NP until we know whether we are to get a new settlement which of course would be a game changer.
So it's been a hugely busy year!
David Truesdale MBE BA MA MRTPI
Vice-Chair, Haddenham Parish Council