Changes to National Planning Policy on the Way

We have recently submitted comments on the draft amendments to the Government’s National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF). This is the national policy document that guides local authorities in the preparation of their local plans and in making decisions on planning applications.

The amendments proposed are to update the policies in the NPPF so that they accord with other consultations undertaken by the Government. Amendments include changes in the way that housing need is calculated, how local Councils are expected to monitor progress on housing and how Council’s should address pressure for development in the Green Belt.

Some of the main points in the our consultation response were as follows –

  • Amendments to the presumption in favour of sustainable development will give additional strength to the protection of AONBs and Green Belt.
  • The whole premise of the Housing Delivery Test is flawed, in that it involves sanctions against LPAs for something that is not wholly within their power to control.
  • We object to a new policy on exception sites for entry level homes in the Green Belt, which seems to allow for additional market housing to be slipped in.
  • Communications equipment such as masts and overhead cables have the potential to cause significant harm to landscapes, and this is particularly important in protected areas.
  • We support the principle of minimum density standards for city and town centres as this will help to reduce the pressure for development on the open countryside.
  • We do not support the removal of land from the Green Belt to allow development, and consider that housing numbers should be capable of being adjusted downwards where the only option to meet those numbers is to encroach on Green Belt
  • We welcome the more detailed test to be applied to demonstrate exceptional circumstances for removing land from the Green Belt.
  • Where no alternative can be found to Green Belt development (including in neighbouring districts) and exceptional circumstances exist, local authorities should be required wherever possible to create new areas of Green Belt with boundaries that can be defended in the long term.
  • We are disappointed that the reference to AONBs having the highest status of protection has been removed, there is no protection in relation to the setting of AONBs, and there are no policies for addressing cumulative impacts on AONBs and their settings.

Our  full response can be read here.

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Box Woodland Project at Wormsley Estate

This week, 30 of our volunteers returned to Wormsley Estate to help kick-start start the next phase of an exciting Box Woodland project that is being funded by a £50,000 grant from Network Rail. The funding will allow thousands of new tress to be planted on site, and we’re delighted to play an important part in the delivery of the project.

Building on the success of several years of creating Box Woodland in the Ibstone Valley, this project supported by Network Rail’s Woodland Creation Grant is a big step forward by supporting the creation of approximately 38 hectares of new Box Woodland and scrub habitat.

England’s first new Boxwood forest since Queen Elizabeth 1st is proposed on a steep, elevated chalk scree site recently cleared of beech forest by a storm, within a parcel of beech woodland. The site was selected in 2011 on a search to find a location similar to the 3 SSSI box woodlands in neighbouring counties. Small trial plots on the site 2012-13 have established a solid working method.

Box woodland has become scarce in England with less than a total of 20 hectares in the south east. Many locations favourable for box are now used for other purposes. Box is a native tree with a rich invertebrate fauna, and a long history as very useful to humans before the discovery of tropical hardwoods, particularly in music, tools, and art.

Network Rail is making funds available for biodiversity following unavoidable habitat loss resulting from the electrification of the Great Western Railway line. The aim is to support biodiversity projects that provide long lasting improvements to wildlife habitats.

The Chiltern Society have been working with The Estate for several years on this project and will continue to support the project with three practical volunteer work parties carrying out a variety of work from site preparation to planting to collecting seedlings.


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Best Brunch in the Chilterns

Help us to find the best brunch in the Chilterns!

‘Brunching’ has become increasingly popular over the last few years, with many local cafes and restaurants providing a fantastic range of dishes on their menu to attract brunch-loving customers. We thought it would be appropriate to jump on the bandwagon so this year, our Food & Drink Award will be focusing on our new favorite mealtime! Poached eggs, sour dough, chorizo and smashed avocado galore are definitely the order of the day. We wouldn’t say no to some fluffy pancakes or a scrummy granola bowl either! And of course a good cup of frothy coffee or a freshly pressed juice is absolutely essential to wash it down!

We want you to tell us where you love to brunch in the Chilterns. To nominate please click here and tell us about your preferred brunch spot, with a few words to explain why you enjoy eating there and what your favourite menu choices are.

The closing date for nominations is 30th June. After that, our judges will consider the nominations and make their shortlist of places to visit in person.

We are looking forward to hearing from you!

We are passionate about supporting local eateries and food producers. To learn more about our annual Food & Drink Award, please click here.

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Enjoy a 15% discount at Mountain Warehouse

We are pleased to announce that Mountain Warehouse stores based around the Chilterns are now generously offering our members 15% off in store purchases with a valid Chiltern Society membership card. Mountain Warehouse has been developing exceptional quality outdoor gear for all the family over twenty years.  From hiking clothing and camping equipment to ski wear and running gear, they stock everything you need for your outdoor activities.

Show your membership card in the following stores to receive your discount: Amersham, Berkhamsted, Harpenden, Marlow, Taplow & Thame

Not a member? Join us here to receive this discount, and many others across the Chilterns.

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Volunteers get to work at Lindengate

Last week a group of our volunteers spent the morning at Lidengate, helping to enhance the habitats in their wildlife area focussing on the boundary hedge. Volunteers worked hard to clear bramble and cut back the sides to help thicken the hedge up making it more attractive for a range of species from nesting birds to small mammals that rely on the hedge for cover from predators.

Lindengate is mental health charity based in Wendover that offers specialised gardening activities to help those with mental health needs. The charity believes that the healing power of nature and the outdoors can do a great deal to improve mental wellbeing, boost self-esteem & social inclusion and encourage long-term recovery. We’re proud to be collaborating with such a worthwhile local organisation and look forward to returning there again later this week for our next volunteer session.

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Influencing Local Planning Policy

The Chiltern Society has always taken a keen interest in the planning policies being developed by the Local Planning Authorities across the Chilterns area. With the scale of development across the region likely to increase significantly over the next twenty years, it is essential that we take an active approach to influencing the contents of the emerging Local Plans. These plans are being developed by each local authority and their primary aims are to set planning policy for the next twenty years or so, and identify sites that are considered suitable for development.

As the housing targets now being set by the local authorities have been significantly increased, there is increasing pressure to use land located in the Green Belt or the Chilterns AONB and its setting for housing. In order to address the increasing workload arising from these plans, we have appointed a new Planning Officer, Colin Blundel, specifically to work with our Planning Group on planning policy matters. Since his appointment in September 2017, the we have sent in representations on the following Local Plans:

Buckinghamshire County Council – Minerals and Waste Local Plan – Preferred Options

  • We were concerned that there was no reference to preserving the openness of the Green Belt in the Vision Statement.
  • Whilst we supported the policies on the Green Belt and Chilterns AONB, more emphasis could be put on protecting the setting of the AONB.
  • We identified the minerals and waste sites that were located within the Chilterns and stressed that great care will be required with the design and restoration of these proposals to ensure that they do not cause long term harm to the character and appearance of their location.
    Read our full response here

Wycombe District Council – Local Plan Publication Draft

  • We considered that the allocation of a site for 100 houses at Mill Road, Stokenchurch was unsound because the Plan failed to recognise it as major development within an AONB.
  • We were not satisfied that the proposed policy relating to the Chilterns AONB was consistent with national policy as it did not require major developments to demonstrate that they were in the public interest.
  • Amongst the allocations were a number of sites that may impact on the AONB and we asked that the wording of the policies referred to conserving and enhancing the AONB, rather than just limiting the impact.
    Read our full response here

South Oxfordshire District Council – Local Plan Publication Draft

  • The Plan did not include a separate policy in relation to the Chilterns AONB, and was, therefore, inconsistent with the plans of neighbouring authorities.
  • The Council had not given sufficient weight to the AONB to meet their statutory duties under the Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000 and to be consistent with the National Planning Policy Framework.
  • We were concerned about the high level of growth proposed in South Oxfordshire over the Plan period and whether this has been sufficiently justified in terms of impacts on the AONB.
  • It is not clear how the Council has taken into consideration the AONB in arriving at housing targets for individual settlements.
    Read our full response here

Dacorum Borough Council – Local Plan Issues and Options

  • We considered that a co-ordinated regionalised approach was required between local authorities to identify the locations for housing development on a more regional basis to try to reduce pressure for development in the AONB and Green Belt.
  • More references to the Chilterns AONB and the Green Belt should be included in the Vision Statements relating to the main settlements.
  • We were broadly in support of the settlement hierarchy approach proposed, concentrating on the larger settlements. Is has to be remembered, however, that the towns are immediately surrounded by the Chilterns Landscape, including both the AONB and the Green Belt.
  • We considered that encroachment into the Green Belt must be a last resort for development. As the Plan emerges it will need to demonstrate that it has fully considered brownfield sites, sites within towns and villages and sites outside the Green Belt and AONB before considering Green Belt boundary changes and site allocations.
    Read our full response here

Aylesbury Vale District Council – Local Plan Submission Draft

  • We considered that the allocation of the RAF Halton site could lead to the site’s removal from the Green Belt in the long term and would therefore not be consistent with national policy.
  • The RAF Halton site is located entirely within the Green Belt and in the immediate setting of the Chilterns AONB. Therefore, we considered that any development here must be carefully designed to fully respect these designations.
  • We agreed with the Council that the RAF Halton site should be retained within the Green Belt and we would expect the Council to re-use existing buildings where possible, and particularly the existing Listed barracks blocks.
    Read our full response here





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PhotoGroup 2018 Exhibition

Our PhotoGroup’s 2018 online exhibition has just opened, and is now in its 14th year. There are nearly 300 photos in the 2018 collection, all contributed by our Chiltern based members.

Landscapes are the most popular subjects, closely followed by some spectacular Flora and Fauna. The Heritage category also boasts some interesting features from around the Chilterns.

Our guest reviewer this year is Terry Coffey, a judge with the Chiltern Association of Camera Clubs. He cast his eye over the submissions and has offered a valuable critique which can be read here.

Terry particularly liked this wonderful shot of a red kite over smoky Turville by Michael King. Our members seem to be particularly good at finding and photographing lovely birds, butterflies and other insects. Of course there are plenty of images of stunning Chiltern scenes to remind us of the beautiful countryside that we are so lucky to have on our doorstep.

We will be featuring submissions from PhotoGroup members increasingly on our Twitter, Instagram & Facebook pages. So be sure to follow us @chilternsociety so you don’t miss out on some spectacular photographs!


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Win a luxury Chilterns hamper- worth over £350!

There’s a food revolution taking place in these hills and we want to celebrate it! The Chilterns is now home to an abundance of wonderful food & drink producers, so we thought it would be a great idea to pull together a Christmas hamper filled with delicious local goodies and give YOU the chance to win it in a prize draw.

The contents of the hamper have been generously donated by Chilterns producers themselves, and we’d like to thank them all for their support. It’s all mouth-wateringly good, and the winner will certainly be thrilled!

For your chance to win, please click here

Each entry costs £5.00. The funds raised will help us in our ongoing work of conserving and caring for the Chilterns.

Here’s what’s in the hamper – plus some background on each of the local producers who have contributed…


Auberge du Chocolat; 3 bars of special Christmas chocolate (milk, white & dark)
A unique artisan family business with a passion for chocolate, ice cream and fudge. Anne and Ian Scott have been making chocolate in the Chilterns since 2005. Now based in Chesham and firmly established as a maker of premium luxury chocolate, awards have come flooding in. They also run workshops, parties and corporate events.


Tring Brewery;  3 Bottles of Pale Four (Winner of our 2017 Craft Beer Award)
Tring Brewery has been making beer for 25 years. Now established at Dunsley Farm, they’re well known for their unusually named beers (including my all-time favourite tipple, Side Pocket for a Toad), which all have strong connections with Chiltern events, myths and legends. Their beers are available from the brewery shop and many good local pubs.


Nettlebed Creamery; 2 Bix cheeses
Nettlebed Creamery makes Bix and St Bartholomew cheeses using milk from Merrimoles Farm. A fully organic operation since 2001, the farm’s fortunate cows graze on grass and clover leys enhanced with herbs such as chicory, plantain and yarrow. The end product is so good that last year specialist cheese website named Bix cheese as one of the best five new cheeses in the UK.


Blossoms Syrup; a bottle of sloe syrup
Based at Beacon Bottom, near Stokenchurch, Blossoms describe their products as ‘uniquely British and a bit French’. Designed with cocktail making in mind, the syrups are 100% natural with no added colourings, preservatives or aromas. They’re available in nine delicious flavours and are made using the highest quality raw ingredients. The result is an explosion of natural flavour. A perfect accompaniment to our Chiltern Society gin!


The Chiltern Candle Company; a  Winter Spice scented candle
So whilst this isn’t strictly food, it smells delicious! Inspired by the Chiltern countryside, each candle is individually made using premium soy wax, 100% cotton wicks and a combination of all-natural essential oils that are carefully combined with cosmetic-grade fine fragrance oils. Stylishly presented in locally sourced packaging, each candle is truly unique and will cast an atmospheric light on dark December evenings.


PE Mead; 4 bottles of cold pressed flavoured rapeseed oil
The Mead family has been farming in the Chilterns since 1860. They first made Chiltern Cold Pressed Rapeseed oil at Wilstone Great Farm in 2009 and have since extended the collection to include a range of infused oils, salad dressings, barbecue sauces and mayonnaises. Their oils have won many national food awards and were even featured on a recent episode of the BBC’s Escape to the Country.


Chiltern Natural Foods; honeycomb bites and a bag of granola
Based in High Wycombe, Chiltern Natural Foods manufactures hand-roasted, healthy flavoured nuts and seeds and a range of whole grain, no salt, no wheat, low sugar granolas. Their mission is to make premium foods – including many gluten-free products – which are all natural but still taste great.


Chiltern Charcuterie; a pack of sliced beef bresaola
From their curing kitchen on a small farm in North Dean, Chiltern Charcuterie produces award-winning salamis and air-dried meat products. Made from free-range pork, grass-fed beef and lamb, as well as ethically sourced venison, all their meat is sourced from local independent farms. An award winner at the 2016 Great Taste awards, their charcuterie brings a taste of the continent to the Chilterns.


Marlow Cheese Company; Bucks Blue and Cygnet cheeses
Reputed to be Buckinghamshire’s first ever cheese maker, Marlow Cheese was launched in 2016. Cygnet, Bucks Blue and Regatta are their flagship products, all made using delicious whole milk from Lacey’s Dairy. Now on sale at many leading farm shops including Peterley Manor, and at Rebellion Brewery, Marlow Cheese has even been spotted on the menu at Michelin-starred local restaurant, The Hand and Flowers.


Dizzy Bee Kitchen; a bag of quinoa & pecan gluten-free granola
Set up three years ago by Nicky Halloran, Dizzy Bee Kitchen produces healthy, additive-free granolas packed with nutritious ingredients such as lucuma, pumpkin, sunflower, chia, hemp, seeds, flax seeds, nuts, quinoa, oats and bran. A winner of five Great Taste awards, Nicky still makes all her granola by hand.


Chiltern Ridge – 2 bottles of apple juice

‘Pure 100% apple juice with nothing added’ is the credo behind this Chartridge-based, family run business. Their juice is now available in many local farm shops, as well as Budgens supermarkets. In addition to producing their own juice, they will press your apples into a delicious pasteurised juice. Their farm shop also sells pork and lamb, and they even have on-site B&B accommodation.


Chess Valley Lamb – £50 voucher
Chess Valley Lamb is part of Chess Valley Livestock, which was set up by Scott Horton and Paul Jennings in 2012, moving to Raans Farm in Amersham in 2013. They sell their delicious fresh lamb directly to the public and to many local high-end restaurants. Their £50 gift voucher means that the lucky winner of our hamper will have the chance to enjoy some of the best lamb available in our region.


Chiltern Society Gin
Specially created for us by local distillery, Wayfinders. You’ll enjoy a true taste of the Chilterns with every sip!


Chiltern BreweryChristmas pudding made with Lord Lieutenant’s Porter
Another local business with an enviable nationwide reputation, Chiltern is the oldest independent brewery in the region. A family-run business located on an old working farm at Terrick, the emphasis has always been on producing natural, wholesome beers using the best British malt and hops. Their excellent farm shop features many products made using Chiltern beer.


Daws Hill VineyardSparkling Apple Cider &  a vineyard tour voucher
Christmas wouldn’t be Christmas without a drop of something fizzy, and at Daws Hill Vineyard in Radnage they specialise in making it! Founded in 2004, it now produces a range of brut and rose sparkling wine, and an excellent bottle-fermented sparkling cider. International awards have included a bronze medal, won at the prestigious Effervescents du Monde competition in France.


Jim and Jules Big Adventure – a selection of chutneys and preserves
This husband and wife team have been making chutney since 2008. Their ‘big adventure’ began when they needed to raise money to fund their wedding and chose chutney-making because Jim’s parents had a massive apple tree on their farm! Jim and Jules now make a range of chutneys and piccalilli. Their apple chutney is a personal favourite of mine and makes a great glaze for pork.


Jolly Brew – English Breakfast Tea Bags

After being made redundant in 2014, Greg Hassell turned his hand to tea and decided to concentrate on creating blends that were a little different, with the emphasis on Britishness. Having recently opened its first shop in Thame, Jolly Brew now works with a team of specialist tea blenders to create more than 50 blends.


R&B Honey – a jar of honey 

R&B honey is produced in the idyllic countryside location of Lacey Green. With its abundance of sprawling fields and hawthorn hedgerows, their honey bees love nothing more than to seek out the richest pollen from the wealth of wild flowers and shrubs on offer before returning to their hives for the important task of honey production.


Salty Dog – a selection of crisps

Based at their Salty Towers HQ in Chesham the Salty Dog company produces exceptionally crunchy hand-cooked crisps. They also make delicious popcorn and flavoured nuts.


Gruntled – selection of pork crackling snack bags

Gruntled is a sister company of Salty Dog crisps, based just outside of Chesham. Their pork crackling is cooked twice to make it lighter than traditional scratchings. It’s also seasoned with completely natural flavours.


Seedlip; 1 bottle of Garden 108 

Seedlip are proud creators of the world’s first non-alcoholic spirit. Their spirits are entirely free sugar and calorie free! They harvest the finest ingredients to capture ‘nature’s true spirit.’ ‘Garden 108’ is flavoured with pea, hay, spearmint, rosemary & thyme botanicals. Enjoy with tonic.


Peaches & Cream – a packet of milk chocolate fudge 

Victoria from Thame started her company in 2014. She produces homemade fudge using all natural ingredients. The wonderful array of flavours on offer includes Clotted Cream, Toffee Apple and Salty Caramel.


Beechwood Fine Foods– one jar of jam 

Beechwood is a farm shop and cafe in Frogmore Street, Tring. One of the star products in their excellent range is their Wild Bramble and Bramley Apple jam, homemade by the shop’s owner Sarah. Their other locally sourced produce includes fresh bread, cakes, hand-raised pork pies and a nice range of cheeses.


Rebellion Brewery – 6 bottles of Rebellion Lager 

This highly successful brewery was established in 1993 to ensure the continuation of traditional brewing in Marlow after the closure of Wethereds. Since then, Rebellion has gone from strength to strength. Their ales like Smuggler and Roasted Nuts are widely available in many local pubs and their own brewery shop and now they have created Rebellion Lager to add to their fantastic range of beers.


TuTu Delicious – White Chocolate Ice Bear

TuTu Delicious is a family run artisan chocolate shop in the heart of Oxfordshire. Located in the small town of Watlington they make and sell high quality chocolates which have won Great Taste Awards.


Malt The Brewery – 1 bottle of Starry Nights, a tour of the brewery & 2l of your choice of ale. 

Brewing since 2012, this brewery is set in the heart of the Chilterns in Great Missenden. They pride themselves on their use of quality natural ingredients, and traditional brewing methods.


Chilterns Food Magazine – latest edition 

Chilterns Food Magazine is a seasonal magazine dedicated to showcasing the very best of local food here in the Chiltern Hills. It is produced by a group of young and passionate local people.

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Kingwood Common Group Get To Work!

On 1st November, our brand new Kingwood Common Conservation Group officially launched with it’s first volunteering session.

Twenty-five volunteers rolled up their sleeves to clear bracken, bramble and self-seeded saplings from the open glades to help restore this important heathland and acid grassland habitat near Nettlebed.

Kingwood Common, a County Wildlife Site, is characteristic of a neglected heath consisting largely of oak, birch and bracken. However, pockets of lowland heath and dry acid grassland areas still survive. These habitats support a range of species, including heath bedstraw, heath milkwort, heather/ling and bell heather, that are not found in other habitats.  These species are are nationally rare, particularly so in Oxfordshire.

Our volunteers have been working in partnership with the Nettlebed Estate for many years carrying out access improvements across the Nettlebed Commons. An opportunity arose to work again with the Nettlebed Estate to support the Nettlebed and District Commons Conservators in delivering the Kingwood Common Conservation Management Plan, so, after months of preparations, we are delighted that this new conservation group is now finally established.

Kingwood Common is an important site for biodiversity and heritage and is a wonderful natural asset for the local community. We are thrilled to play an important role in caring for it.

The Group’s next session is being held on Saturday 18th November from 10am to 1pm. All are welcome to attend and lend a hand. For more information and to register your interest, please send an email to Matthew Davis, our Kingwood Common Group Leader.

This project is supported by TOE2 with funding from Grundon Waste Management Ltd.


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Congratulations to our North Chilterns Path Maintenance Volunteers

A HUGE well done to our NCMPV group who achieved Highly Commended in the Dacorum Borough Council Community Champion Awards, which recognises individuals and groups who go out of their way to make Dacorum a cleaner, safer and greener place to live.

Les Mosco, the group leader, along with seven of our regular volunteers were presented the award by Mayor of Dacorum Cllr David Collins at a presentation ceremony earlier this month.

For more information about the work of path maintenance groups and how you could get involved, please click here.

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