This blog is mainly about the governance and future of policing and crime services. (Police & Crime Commissioners feature quite a lot.) But there are also posts about the wider justice system. And because I am town councillor and political activist, local & national issues are covered a little, as well.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Kicking localism in the stomach (80 houses on Moreton Road)

(This is my personal view of what happened this afternoon at a meeting of Aylesbury Vale District Council's Strategic Development Control Committee: i.e. this is not an official Town Council view.)

I have just returned from attending the meeting at which the second (near identical) application to develop the land on the Moreton Road south of the rugby club was debated. After an hour and ¾ debate, of which nearly half an hour was in private session discussing legalities, the decision was taken to accept the officer’s recommendation to approve this development. 5 members voted for the motion to accept the recommendation and 3 abstained. The motion was proposed by Cllr Paternoster (who was standing in for Cllr Mills, the local councillor who has actively campaigned against the development but who was unable to be present due to family reasons), and seconded by Cllr Polhill.

This was despite cogent and passionate presentations from David Child (local resident and campaigner), Cllr Isham and myself. The statement I read out is below.

From where I sat, (if I am being charitable) it appeared that this was a sadly expedient decision made on strong advice from the council’s legal officer who was present at the meeting. Had they voted against, they would have gone against the previous appeal decision by the planning inspector which (I suspect they were advised) could have led them into very choppy and expensive waters.

If I am being uncharitable, I think they bottled out. Local people will decide which one of my views they favour.

The legal challenge to the Planning Inspector’s decision to support the appeal against the first planning decision is still in process at the High Court. The planning terrain is fast changing with the nascent Vale of Aylesbury Plan just being submitted for approval and the Buckingham Town Plan well underway. It seems to me that the developers have spotted a small window into which they might submit their plans (again) in the knowledge that resistance will be patchy. Meanwhile AVDC choose to set up this meeting at short notice in the middle of August.

It strikes me as curious that a democratically elected authority could stand accused of acting unreasonably by making a decision consistent with its first decision, but an unaccountable developer who submits a near identical planning application while the first is being looked at in the courts, is not acting unreasonably. But I guess this is part of the corporate world we now inhabit.

A poor and pusillanimous decision was made this afternoon, in my opinion. Had I been on this committee, I would have voted against and wrestled with the consequences.

In my view localism is about local developments being genuinely plan-led, which empower local people to shape their surroundings and which creatively improve and enhance the places where people live their lives. Localism in Aylesbury Vale was kicked in the stomach this afternoon.

My five minute statement:

My name is Jon Harvey, and I am councillor from Buckingham Town Council. I am here with the full backing of BTC – but I also live just up the road from the proposed development. I am a Maids Moreton resident.

As you know, the Town Council is resolutely opposed to this application to build 80 houses just south of our town’s rugby club. You will have read our reasons in the officer’s report.

It is our view, that substantive matters were overlooked by the Planning Inspector. Moreover, while the Planning Officer has written a logical and technically astute report recommending you approve the application (albeit with conditions), it is still your judgement that counts in the end.

My aim this afternoon is to persuade you that there are several significant reasons as to why you must reject this application, as indeed you did before, with a very similar one. This is a separate application.

The application stills fails to address the issue of traffic volume and its harmful impact on not only the town but also Maids Moreton. No proper traffic survey has been carried out and much of the desk researched data was generated before the 200 other houses on Moreton Road were built and occupied. It is getting increasingly hard to get into and through town due to traffic backing up on the hill by the old police station and at the old gaol roundabout.

This application cannot and must not be approved in the absence of proper raw data collected through a proper survey.

The Planning Inspector’s report talks of a framework travel plan and ‘trip crediting measures’ whatever they are. The Town Council does not believe in the fantasy that with a couple of extra bus shelters and cycle sheds in the town centre, the traffic problems generated by what could be soon 280 extra dwellings on the Moreton Road will magically disappear. Do you?

By approving these extra 80 houses you risk significantly adding to the rat runs bisecting streams of children attending local schools. This has not been fully addressed in the planning application.

We all know that the Planning Inspector did not get the figures correct on housing land supply. The notion that the Aylesbury plans do not have enough housing land set aside for adequate supply is bunkum. There is plenty of land already set aside for housing in the rural areas outside of Aylesbury. The Planning Inspector should not have conflated the Aylesbury town land with the land in the rest of the district. There is adequate supply so this is NOT a reason to approve these houses.

Moreover, the forthcoming plans will VERY SOON make that abundantly clear. Moreover, the planning context has changed hugely since the first application.

I could go on obviously and I refer you back to all of our points in the report. I have not commented upon the point about Buckingham and Maids Moreton still being separate communities. But ask me a question if you wish.

But I will finish with this. The report before you is accurate but is so replete with highly technical language and convoluted sentences, that even if the planning officer had recommended the opposite, I suspect that much of the report would have read the same. I would contend there is no strong case being presented by the Planning Officer.

This is your call…

And to quote the National Planning Policy Framework’s 12 core planning principles. As I read some of them out, please ask yourself does this application match these principles or not?

1. Is this application genuinely plan-led, empowering local people to shape their surroundings?
2. Will it creatively improve and enhance the places where people live their lives?
3. Does it meet the development needs of the area?
4. Is it a high quality of design and amenity?
5. Does this application take account of different roles and character of different areas… recognising character and beauty?
6. Does it support the transition to a low carbon future?
7. Does it enhance the natural environment?
8. Is it about using brownfield land?
9. Will there be multiple benefits arising from this new development?
10. Is heritage being conserved?
11. Is this a sustainable development which will encourage walking and cycling?
12. Will this new development improve the health, social and cultural well-being for all?

If your answers were mostly ‘no’… then please make your decision on that basis. On behalf of Buckingham Town Council and as a nearby resident, I urge you to make the right one.


  1. A.Planner7/8/14 16:57

    Classic NIMBY.

    Two qualified planners (one of whom is an Inspector) AND the Secretary of State deemed a "near identical" application to be acceptable, but why let a rational planning consideration knock one off one's soapbox?

    1. Have you read all the details? This is mainly about sustainability & impact of extra traffic on local infrastructure. Have you explored the draft Buckingham Neighbourhood Plan?

  2. A.Planner11/8/14 13:35

    I am familiar with the DRAFT Buckingham Neighbourhood Plan.

    With the greatest respect however, Section 38(6) of the Planning and Compulsory Purchase Act 2004 requires planning decisions to be made in accordance with the development plan unless material considerations indicate otherwise.

    At the time that the Inspector considered the scheme in November 2012, the development plan comprised the AV Local Plan (2004) and the South East Plan 2009. The Inquiry took place almost 12 months prior to the first pre-submission consultation on the Neighbourhood Plan and was simply not relevant (or existent) at the time.

    At the time of the consideration of the follow-up application, which brought about the above article, there was still no sign of the draft Neighbourhood Plan. I cannot therefore see how it can be considered in any way relevant in the consideration of the application.

    1. I note that you have not addressed my point regarding traffic impact which, in my opinion, was not properly & contemporaneously assessed by the applicant & a matter which was subsequently more or less overlooked by the planning inspector.

      I mentioned the Buckingham Neighbourhood Plan to respond to your pejorative heading "classic NIMBY" - the plan has set aside adequate housing availability for the foreseeable future. The Town Council is not resistant to housing - only to housing in the wrong place (although I am not their spokesperson).