Buckinghamshire authorities clash over county's green belt release objection

A district council has reacted with fury to a county council's objection to a neighbouring local plan's proposal to release land from the green belt for housing, claiming that it could be forced to take on more homes as a result.

Aylesbury Vale District Council. Pic: Mat Fascione from Geograph.org.uk.
Aylesbury Vale District Council. Pic: Mat Fascione from Geograph.org.uk.

Buckinghamshire County Council has objected to Chiltern and South Bucks’ proposal to release areas of green belt in their emerging joint local plan. The sites it has objected to would include "potentially over 2,800 houses", according to Aylesbury Vale District Council.

Aylesbury Vale Council said in a statement that, because much of neighbouring Wycombe district is also covered by green belt, the "most plausible place these houses can go is in Aylesbury Vale". 

Following a joint housing need assessment conducted by the county’s four district councils, Aylesbury Vale said it had reduced the level of housing it would need to accommodate in its own emerging local plan by 6,500.

A council report says the overall housing target in the draft Vale of Aylsebury Local Plan has recently been revised downwards from 33,300 to 26,800 "because of a reduced forecast of housing need and reductions in unmet need".

The statement published yesterday says the county council’s response to the Chiltern and South Bucks joint plan "puts this work in jeopardy".

Aylesbury Vale Council’s leader, Neil Blake, said: "Aylesbury Vale is taking its fair share of the required housing growth for Bucks as a whole. This announcement appears to set the precedent for sacrificing Aylesbury Vale to save the rest of the county."

Blake also criticised the county council’s support for a county-wide unitary council, saying the district councils instead supported the creation of two unitary councils, one covering the north and the other the south of the county.

He said: "If this is an indication of how the county would be run were Buckinghamshire County Council to have complete control over planning matters, as detailed in its unitary plans, then we all have cause to be concerned."

But Buckinghamshire County Council leader Martin Tett said: "Buckinghamshire County Council has simply raised concerns over the suitability of five out of a total of 15 green belt sites proposed for housing by Chiltern and South Bucks district councils as part of their public consultation.

"It is important to note that the districts alone will take the final decision on any changes to the green belts – all we are doing is giving our opinion including as the lead authority for areas such as flooding, highways and education."

Tett said the county’s plans for a county-wide unitary authority "would actively take into account the views of local people over planning decisions" and would involve setting up five local area planning committees so "the vast majority" of planning decisions would still "be taken at a local level".

Chiltern District Council and South Bucks District Council have just finished consulting on the green belt release strategy in their draft joint local plan. It proposes removing 15 sites from the green belt, totalling more than 400 hectares of land, to provide for around 6,000 homes.

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