By Haddenham Webteam - 29th January 2015 8:00am
Oh dear, what a sad outcome for Haddenham.
Despite extremely strong lobbying by Haddenham Parish Councillors, members of the Neighbourhood Plan team and many village residents, the AVDC Strategic Development Management Committee yesterday (Wednesday 28th January) voted to approve the outline planning application from developers Lightwood Strategic to build 280 houses on glebe and agricultural land bordered by Aston Road, Stanbridge Road and Willis Road.
Haddenham residents are incredulous that such a decision should have been taken at this time, given that it seriously undermines the village's Neighbourhood Plan that had been formally submitted to AVDC the day before. What place for local democracy and community governance (so called "localism") now?
The meeting of the Strategic Development Management Committee lasted some three-and-a-half hours, and was very well attended by Haddenham folk — a tremendous turn-out on behalf of fellow residents.
Councillors heard from a range of pre-agreed speakers including Parish Councillor, David Truesdale (a planning professional in his own right) and District Councillor, Judy Brandis. Other speakers from Haddenham included Graham Oliver, David Impey, Robyn and Chris Thorogood, Tony Stephens, Nick Nash, and Alison Watt.
Several Haddenham observers of the meeting commented that the presentation from Lightwood Strategic "came across as aggressive and arrogant".
Despite this and despite the passionate and well presented counter-arguments from Haddenham representatives, the Committee voted 6 to 3 in favour of accepting the recommendation by AVDC Planning Officer to approve the outline planning application for 280 houses on the Aston Road site.
David Truesdale was bitterly disappointed by the outcome. He told your website editor: "The Parish Council will now try to get the application "called in" by the Secretary of State, Eric Pickles. Our MP, John Bercow, has written to Pickles to support us in this."
"What are the chances of success? Realistically, there is probably only a slim chance, however Pickles has been making a string of decisions giving priority to NPs on appeals recently. But who knows?!"
So where does this leave us?
As most Haddenham residents will know, the AVDC decision is a major blow to our Neighbourhood Plan. At the very least, this will mean a serious 'back to the drawing board' re-evaluation and re-drafting of the Plan. This will take time, more local consultation and even more effort by the team that has invested considerable energy and commitment to this project over the last two years.
The delay in finalising the Neighbourhood Plan, having it approved by local residents through a referendum and then officially sanctioned by a Government inspector, will be a serious matter for the village. Until this statutory instrument is in place, providing guidelines that define the scale, location and character of new development in Haddenham, developers and builders have a much less constrained opportunity to pursue their commercial aims.
Every rational resident of Haddenham appreciates that there is a dire need for additional housing in this country and we're ready and willing to see our locality play its part.
What we fear most, however, is a disproportionate and unsustainable urban sprawl around the village that totally changes the character of Haddenham as a village for ever.
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(Demonstrator's photograph courtesy of Russ Naylor)