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A Worrying Decision by AVDC

by Roy van de Poll – 24th September 2015
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There have been concerns recently that AVDC is taking a rather relaxed view of Neighbourhood Plans, and the extent to which it is legally required to take them into account in its planning decisions. Below, Roy van de Poll, a town councillor from Winslow, provides his personal commentary on the most recent planning decision by AVDC.

At the meeting of AVDC's Strategic Development Management Committee (SDMC) held on Wednesday 23rd September, there was but one application for determination and that took about two and a half hours. It was for a hostile planning application by Taylor Wimpey for 42 homes outside the Settlement Boundary of the Great Horwood Settlement Boundary and therefore in direct contravention of the made Great Horwood Parish Neighbourhood Plan (GHPNP).

Because more than 50 letters of objection to the application had been registered, this entitled the community to have 10 individuals speak for two and a half minutes each in opposition to the application as well as the 5 minutes for the Great Horwood PC submission. These 11 impassioned submissions covered a wide range of substantive and robust arguments as to why the application should be turned down. Noteworthy was the failure of the applicant to send a speaker.

During the course of proceedings, several flaws in the Case Officer's report were highlighted.

Councillor Llew Monger, a member of SDMC, asked a number of technical questions regarding the report and it was he who delivered a long list of sound planning considerations as to why this application should be refused, not least the multiplicity of conflict areas with the GHPNP.

Perhaps the most important matter which he highlighted, that had failed to be covered in the Case Officer's report, was Paragraph 198 of the Government's National Planning Policy Framework (March 2012) which states: Where a planning application conflicts with a neighbourhood plan that has been brought into force (made), planning permission should not normally be granted. Councillor Monger then proposed refusal with a complete list of reasons for such a refusal and this was seconded by Councillor Sue Renshell.

Further discussion took place and the counter arguments in favour of the application did not attempt to address/counter the numerous reasons for refusal but concentrated upon, with much wringing of hands, the fact that the District did not have a five year housing land supply and all the problems this was causing, and the need for more homes thrust upon AVDC by the Government, etc., etc.

Those offering this argument appeared to believe:

a) that this was a 'reason' for diluting the GHPNP housing supply policies to an unreasonable extent;
b) trumped all the substantive reasons for refusal.

Some even appeared to be under the false impression that the housing figure in a Neighbourhood Plan would not be changed in the light of the strategic housing demands emanating from Aylesbury Vale Local Plan once adopted.

The ignorance of certain members as to what Neighbourhood Planning is all about, their failure to recognise that AVDC has a statutory duty to support Neighbourhood Plans and the unequivocal instruction to refuse contained in Paragraph 198 of the National Planning Policy Framework which was ignored, was a painful experience for many of those present at the meeting. An image of for deaf ostriches in denial sprang to mind!

The vote was tied and it was on the Chairman's casting vote that the application was approved. Those who voted against the application were Councillor Sue Renshell -Winslow, Councillor Chris Adams – Riverside, Councillor Ashley Bond – Watermead and Councillor Llew Monger – Winslow. Those who voted for the application were Councillor Jenny Bloom – Bedgrove, Councillor Carole Paternoster – Aston Clinton and Stoke Mandeville, Councillor Brian Foster – Haddenham and Stone and Councillor Michael Edmonds (twice!) – Haddenham and Stone.

It was most unfortunate that the Ward Member for Great Horwood Councillor Billy Stanier was unable to attend as his submission made it clear he would have voted against the application. His substitute, Councillor Jenny Bloom of course voted the 'other way.' It was that close!

Great Horwood Parish Council some time ago requested the Secretary of State to call in this application for his determination. In the light of this travesty of a decision, I would expect him to grant this request.

Roy van de Poll
Winslow Town Council
24 Sep 2015

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