Village of Haddenham

Open Letter to Lightwood Strategic

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From the editor of Haddenham.net

To: the Directors of Lightwood Strategic

Many residents will have received and read your pamphlet about the Neighbourhood Plan.

It seems to me that any reasonable arguments the document might have contained are undermined by the unfortunate smear tactics it employs.

Haddenham is a warm-hearted and giving community — there are many, many examples, but to catch just a glimpse, see here.

The village benefits from the work of individual contributors, who choose to offer up their time and skills to support the Haddenham community, freely and out of a spirit of giving.

For example: maintaining Snakemoor, litter picking, leading cubs and brownies, running the beer festivals, contributing to PTAs, supporting the elderly, enabling youth theatre productions, running the film club ... the list is almost endless. This is what makes Haddenham such a wonderful place in which to live.

To imply in your leaflet that those who helped formulate Haddenham's Neighbourhood Plan were motivated by self-interest does a huge disservice to those whose primary motivation was to help capture the wishes of residents and reflect the majority of these, as far as humanly possible, in our Neighbourhood Plan.

You refer to the home locations of some of the Neighbourhood Plan team, as if this demonstrates self-serving motives.

A curious omission was your failure to highlight the home base of Andy Fell, the project leader on behalf of Haddenham Parish Council, who was responsible for up to 90 percent of the time and effort required to organise workshops and assimilate all the feedback from residents over the last two years. Andy and his family live on the north side of Haddenham, deep in the heart of the village's non-conservation area.

You refer specifically to me as editor of this website and the location of my home — again implying that my geographical base makes me automatically biased. Here are some facts:

  • I live in Churchway, outside the conservation area.
  • I cannot see the Aston Road/Glebe land from my home — indeed, even if I were to lie on the top of the wardrobe in my East-facing bedroom using binoculars, I could still not see any housing that you would like to see built on that land.
  • Other than taking photographs to document the public consultation process over the last two years, I played no part in formulating the Neighbourhood Plan.
  • I fund and operate Haddenham.net to provide a source of information for residents and to reflect the activities of our lively community.
  • I also seek to support other village needs as a school governor at Haddenham St Mary's CE School and as chairman of the Haddenham Medical Centre PPG.

I list these activities not to seek pats on the back, but to demonstrate in practical, down-to-earth ways my overriding motivation to serve the community as best I am able.

I fully support the Neighbourhood Plan and will be voting YES in the referendum on Thursday 16th July

Why?

Because I sincerely believe the Plan will offer Haddenham residents a means of influencing planning decisions by AVDC over the next 18 years and, hopefully, prevent commercially driven developers from building unpopular and inappropriate housing on unsustainable sites around our village.

To vote 'No' would leave this village vulnerable to such commercially motivated endeavours.

Keith Milmer
Editor, Haddenham.net

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Additional information for Haddenham residents:

Lightwood Strategic is a land development company with offices in Mayfair, London and Esher, Surrey.

On its corporate websites the company proudly boasts:

"We consider each site we promote as a matter of when, not if, planning will be granted."

"Lightwood Strategic's directors have secured strategic allocations on over 200 acres of land across the UK"

"We enjoy challenge and the success of delivering a positive result"

Haddenham residents are invited to consider what "a positive result" means for this commercial development company in the context of our village.

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Following the publication of the above Open Letter, the editor of this website was contacted by 'ConversationPR' — the PR firm acting for Lightwood Strategic — requesting a right of reply.
Since there is no desire to censor legitimate debate on the subject of the Neighbourhood Plan in the run-up to our local referendum (on Thursday 16th July), the reply from Lightwood Strategic follows below.

It should be pointed out that this company has a direct commercial interest in securing planning permission for the Aston Road / Glebe site — a decision that will now go to a public enquiry, having been 'called in' by the then Secretary of State, Eric Pickles. The Neighbourhood Plan makes provision for approximately 50 houses in that part of the village. whereas the planning application submitted by Lightwood Strategic is for 280 houses. Thus, Lightwood Strategic is campaigning for the Neighbourhood Plan to be rejected by Haddenham residents. As clearly indicated above, your website editor would wish to encourage residents to maintain a 'whole village' perspective, and the vote YES for the Neighbourhood Plan.

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DRAFT RESPONSE LETTER HADDENHAM.NET

Dear Keith

Thank you for agreeing to give us a chance to put our case.

It is very important there is a robust debate about the Neighbourhood Plan in advance of the referendum — there is a lot at stake for the community.

There remain some very important questions about the draft plan, which residents have the right to ask:

1. Is it fair to locate 78 percent of new homes in the north of the village?
2. Was the scoring of the sites included in the plan done correctly?
3. Has the draft plan secured the best deal for the community?
4. Will the plan really protect us from further development?

Firstly, we don't think it is fair that four of every five new homes will be in the north of the village. There should be a much more even distribution. The airfield site is disconnected from the existing village and risks creating a 'them and us' division.

Secondly, it may concern people that the score given to Dollicott — during the site assessments — was added up incorrectly. Based on the correct score, Dollicott should not be included in the plan. In order to be included Dollicott would have needed to score 34 points: Dollicott only scored 32, while the Glebe scored 36. Despite requests from Lightwood Strategic and local residents to rectify the scoring, our requests have been ignored. If this is corrected, Dollicott would not be an allocated site in the plan.

Thirdly, when Aylesbury Vale District Council's strategic planning committee granted us planning permission earlier this year, it said yes to a scheme that included:
a. More than 80 much needed affordable homes
b. 35 new retirement homes, very near existing healthcare & community facilities
c. 11 hectares of open space with sports ground, play areas and nature reserve
d. One hectare burial ground extension
e. A fully-funded bus service
f. A significant contribution to school places and other local facilities
g. Unlike the airfield site, we are not proposing shops because that would impact Banks Parade
h. The site is big enough for 550 homes, but we have limited it to 280.

Our scheme was shaped in consultation with the community, councillors and officers. Only the Glebe site can deliver the community facilities the residents said they wanted.

Fourthly, will the draft plan protect Haddenham from other developments?

There have been a lot of claims made about this important question. But the facts are clear. The plan's examiner was emphatic that the plan cannot be used to prevent further sites from coming forward. But it will guarantee that those sites included are developed, regardless of how good or bad they are.

At the moment, no-one knows how many homes Haddenham will be required to accommodate — not until AVDC completes its Local Plan. It is highly likely Haddenham — along with many other villages and towns in the district — will have to take more homes than it is currently planning for.

What should local residents do now?

If residents are not happy with the plan, they should vote no and ask for it to be reviewed. The residents in the north of the village and around Dollicott should have their concerns listened to.

It is true that we are 'commercially driven' as you say, but only as much as other land owners who are putting their sites forward. We believe in Neighbourhood Planning, but when we offered to participate in the Neighbourhood Plan, the doors were closed to us.

What is important now is that Haddenham gets the right plan, one which serves the interests of the whole community.

Yours sincerely

James Sorrentino
Director
Lightwood Strategic