Bernard Hall, Cuddington
By Haddenham Webteam - 9th October 2015 9:30am
Most of us would accept that the UK has a housing shortage, and the nation is not building enough new homes to satisfy demand. Soaring house prices are an indicator of this.
The causes are multi-faceted, but slow and complex planning laws and developers' delays associated with their 'land-banking' in anticipation of increasing returns, would both seem to have contributed.
For more on the UK housing shortage, see this BBC article
In 2011, when the Localism Act was passed by the British Government, its stated aims were to achieve:
- new freedoms and flexibilities for local government
- new rights and powers for communities and individuals
- reform to make the planning system more democratic and more effective
- reform to ensure that decisions about housing are taken locally
At the time of the Act, the Rt Hon Greg Clark MP, Minister of State for Decentralisation (he is now the Secretary of State, having succeeded Eric Pickles) was quoted as saying:
"When people know that they will get proper support to cope with the demands of new development; when they have a proper say over what new homes look like and when they can influence where those homes go, they have reason to say 'yes' to growth"
In July 2015, Haddenham residents voted decisively in favour of our Neighbourhood Plan. This document acknowledged the need for new housing in the village, defined what new housing might look like and where we, the residents of Haddenham, would like new housing to go. By implication, the Plan also indicated where we would not like it to go!
Recently AVDC has made some public statements indicating something of a 'relaxed attitude' to Neighbourhood Plans, and the extent to which such models of public democracy can be ignored by the Council.
This coming Wednesday, 14th October, the Strategic Management Committee of AVDC will include on its agenda consideration of a report relating to the planning application for 280 homes on the Aston Road / Glebe site, as submitted by the development company, Lightwood Strategic. You can find more details about this here.
There is considerable confusion as to the purpose of this 'consideration' by AVDC, given that a judicial review and a public enquiry will be taking place in the near future, both of which will be specifically focused on our Neighbourhood Plan.
There are fears that AVDC will, in effect, ignore Haddenham's Neighbourhood Plan in terms of the number of houses and the preferred locations that it defined.
Various Haddenham-based groups, including the Village Society, Haddenham Parish Council and the Haddenham Action Group have been liaising to consider the best response, especially as AVDC's meeting will not provide an opportunity for any members of the public to speak.
Your website editor understands that several individuals have written to our local AVDC councillors, and to our MP John Bercow, demanding that the local democratic decision by 86 per cent of Haddenham residents who voted in the local referendum in July this year is respected and honoured.
Responses from our own local councillors so far have been unhelpful or non-existent.
One particular individual, who has asked to remain anonymous for the moment, has written directly the the Secretary of State, Greg Clark. Here is his letter:
Dear Secretary of State,
I refer to my email of 8th February to Sir Eric Pickles, and the calling in by his Officials of this Application to AVDC on 29th January 2015.
I have just received a letter from AVDC indicating that a further report will be "considered at the next meeting of the Committee to be held on 14th October 2015" at which "there will be no chance ...... for the public to speak".
I have checked this morning and there are no signs erected on or near the site in relation to this matter.
The action of the AVDC, apart from being a snub to your Department and a misuse of powers, is a scandalous waste of limited resources.
Is there anything you can do to help, please?
Yours sincerely ...
This website will seek to keep Haddenham residents up-to-date on these important issues, and your editor would welcome any information that may help him to do so. The attachment (see below cartoon) is a 'Plain English Guide to the Localism Act'.
In response to this article, David Truesdale (Chairman of Haddenham Parish Council's Planning Committe) had this to add:
In their initial submission to the Planning Inspectorate in preparation for the November hearing on the Glebe site, AVDC did advise that, in view of the referendum and decision to "make" the Haddenham NP, the Committee would be given the opportunity to review their January decision to approve the application prior to the inquiry. That will happen next week.
At the last January's AVDC Committee I was able to cite a number of cases where Secretary of State Eric Pickles, in pre-election mood no doubt, was placing Neighbourhood Plans high in the balance of considerations. Unsurprisingly, in the following months there has been a fight back by developers, and several of Pickles' decisions have now been tested and overturned in the Courts. Hence AVDC's nervousness.
The real problem here is AVDC's failure to (a) make a Local Plan and (b) have a 5-year housing land supply.
Without these protections, all existing policies and projections are regarded as "out-of-date", and all local communities are at risk of unwanted planning applications.
Gladman are sufficiently emboldened by recent decisions to submit their 3rd attempt on the Winslow site twice rejected.
There is one section of the NPPF National Planning Policy Framework that appears to work in our favour. Anyone contacting DCLG at the moment is getting a standard reply back which includes the following:
"In the case of applications in an area with a neighbourhood plan that has been "made" and thus forms part of the development plan, but where the local planning authority cannot demonstrate a five-year supply, decision makers should, when assessing the adverse impacts of the proposal against the policies in the Framework as a whole, include those policies that deal with neighbourhood planning. Relevant policies would include paragraphs 183 — 185 of the Framework (headed 'Neighbourhood plans'); and paragraph 198 which states that where a planning application conflicts with a neighbourhood plan that has been brought into force, planning permission should not normally be granted."
I cannot understand why AVDC officers and, in particular, members are not prepared to use this to support local communities with made Neighbourhood Plans. It's probably much to do with fear of all the costs they are incurring in legal challenges, but maybe that's something they have to bear as a direct consequence of their own failures. At least the Glebe decision will be made by an Inspector (and potentially the Sec of State), and not by AVDC. It will be a legal and political decision as much as a planning decision.
The Parish Council has arranged a planning consultant and is considering legal representation — there are cons to this as well as pros.