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Why Did We Bother?

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Planning permission 04

The Strategic Management Committee of AVDC met on Wednesday afternoon 14th October, to re-consider the planning application submitted by Lightwood Strategic for permission to build 280 houses on the Aston Road / Glebe site.

The reason for this re-consideration was the fact that the Committee's previous approval of the planning application for this site went through before Haddenham's Neighbourhood Plan was 'made' (i.e., completed, approved and published).

Approximately 26 members of the public (many from Haddenham) attended to observe the meeting, but only AVDC councillor Judy Brandis was permitted to speak as a non-member of the Strategic Planning Committee. No public contributions were allowed. Judy presented an enthusiastic and well argued case in favour of the Neighbourhood Plan, and the important consideration that it should receive in shaping the Committee's decisions over the Aston Road site.

Councillor Llew Monger from Winslow expressed concerns about some aspects of Haddenham's Neighbourhood Plan, but acknowledged that it had been passed by an independent inspector and had been overwhelmingly approved by a massive majority of the local residents who had voted in our village referendum in July. UKIP councillor Chris Adams also declared his enthusiasm for respecting the views of Haddenham residents as expressed though our NP.

Much time was taken up by the efforts of professional planning officers Sue Pilcher and Susan Kitchen as they sought to clarify the degree of 'weighting' that Councillors should apply to different planning laws and strategy documents that potentially support or override the community's Neighbourhood Plan. These discussions got very bogged down as the pair struggled to explain the need to give "full weight" as opposed to "significant weight" or just "considerable weight" to the different factors.

Many District Councillors looked bemused.

Most of the attentive audience members, however, were able to recognise and appreciate the quota of 'full, significant and considerable gibberish' that had emerged.

One particularly poignant moment came as Councillor Roger King brought his remarkable insight and expertise to our attention. Ignoring the wishes of the 1,712 Haddenham residents who voted in favour of the Haddenham NP, he confidently declared that, in his opinion, the Aston Road development would "round off the shape of the village; the vast majority of traffic leaving the development would turn left and away from the old part of the village anyway; and new residents would help support the pubs and restaurants".

Gosh, how could 1,712 Haddenham local residents have been so short sighted, Roger?

As the discussions drew to a close, chairman Michael Edmonds all but directed the Council to approve the application.

Despite the direct conflict with Haddenham's Neighbourhood Plan, five councillors voted in favour of accepting Lightwood Strategic's planning application, while four voted against.

After the meeting, one particularly seasoned (and cynical?) observer alleged that "some behind the scenes calculations had probably been conducted to allow Brian Foster to be seen to vote against". But this website could not possibly support such scurrilous speculation.

The voting looked like this:

Those in favour:

  • Michael Edmonds (Haddenham & Stone, Con)
  • Ashley Bond (Watermead, Con)
  • Janet Blake (Stewkley, Con)
  • Roger King (Mandeville & Elm Farm, Con)
  • Susan Renshall (Winslow, Con)

Those Against:

  • Sir Beville Stainer (Great Horwood, Con)
  • Chris Adams (Riverside, UKIP)
  • Llew Monger (Winslow, Lib Dem)
  • Brian Foster (Haddenham & Stone, Con)

So what next?

Lightwood Strategic is seeking a Judicial Review of Haddenham's Neighbourhood Plan, and there will be a public enquiry following the 'Calling In' of the previous AVDC decision by the office of the Secretary of State.

Confused? This website will seek to keep you abreast of future developments, while doing our best to avoid cynicism towards the "local democratic processes" that operate at a District level.

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