Latest update

Update on the Local Plan
 
We recently communicated the Planning Inspectors' initial findings on the Local Plan, which found that there was a "strong likelihood" that Chiltern & South Bucks (CSB) would have no option but to withdraw the Plan in its entirety due to the failure of their "Duty to Co-operate" (DtC) with Slough. 
 
CSB have now responded, rebutting the Inspectors’ position in needlessly rude language. Their response has been widely derided in planning and legal circles as "petulant" and foolhardy. In short, CSB are refusing to withdraw the Plan, and are insisting on a hearing on the DtC point. This will cost more taxpayers' money. Moreover, CSB want a "physical" not a virtual hearing, which is unlikely to be possible for several months.
 
The Inspectors have agreed to this request. However it is our experts' view that this is only delaying the inevitable and that the Plan will fail. Even IF the Inspectors should decide that the Duty to Co-operate has been satisfied, the Plan would need to pass through another two hearing stages in order to test its "soundness" - a test, which our experts advise, it would also be likely to fail. This means there are potentially three rounds of hearings ahead of us:

  1. Duty to Co-operate with Slough
  2. Overall plan ‘soundness’
  3. Detailed policies, such as the Beaconsfield Green Belt development

BUT if the Inspectors fail the Plan at the DtC hearing, the Plan must be withdrawn at that point.
 
So why is ‘co-operation’ with Slough so important?
 
Slough, like most local authorities, has an un-met housing need; like CSB, it simply does not have the space to build enough houses to meet government housebuilding targets. In CSB, the councils’ solution was partly to export its own ‘un-met need’ to Aylesbury Vale, and partly to build over Green Belt. The largest single development would have been in Beaconsfield, increasing the size of the town by about 35% without increasing the supporting infrastructure.
 
The fact that CSB’s plan is based on false housing calculations would be proven at the Inspectors ‘Soundness’ and ‘Policy’ hearings, if they happen.
 
Clearly it would have been difficult for CSB to have accommodated additional housing needs from Slough, and there is no requirement for the two councils to agree. However there is a statutory duty to engage ‘constructively and actively’. If CSB can be shown not to have met this duty, the whole Plan must fail.
 
CSB’s appalling plan would release Green Belt to construct housing that the local population does not need - 54% more, to be exact. This shattering of Green Belt protection would open the way for even more housing to be built around our town, including overflow housing from Slough. Just as CSB use indefensible logic to say all the extra housing would have a ‘beneficial’ effect on the environment, their reasoning that their Plan would protect South Bucks from Slough expansion would mean the direct opposite in practical terms. It is gross stupidity on a monumental scale.
 
So where now?
 
We must wait for the hearings. If the Plan is withdrawn, as seems likely, Bucks Council cannot simply re-hash this Plan since the evidence base is now redundant. The new Buckinghamshire Unitary Authority are required to come up with a new Plan by 2025, taking a properly strategic county view which requires a new evidence base. Let's hope they have learned their lesson and protect our Green Belt.
 
If you are appalled by how this has been handled by CSB, do think about making a difference - Town and Bucks Council elections take place in May 2021; use your vote and why not consider standing?

Background documents:
 
The Planning Inspectors' initial findings: Inspectors' Initial Findings on the Duty to Co-operate [159.61KB]
CSB’s insulting response:  Council's Initial Response to EXAM 34 [476.53KB]  
The Planning Inspectors' reply:  Inspectors' Response to Council's Hearing Request [88.98KB]