£1.6million investment in new Misbourne Greenway through the Chilterns

A new Misbourne Greenway route through the Chiltern Hills for cycling and walking is to be created thanks to a £1.6m grant from the government.

Sustrans, the walking and cycling charity, will be managing the £1.6 million funding, and the Chiltern Society is delighted to be a delivery partner.

The new traffic-free trail, due to be complete by 2022, will run parallel with the A413, linking towns and villages between Aylesbury and Uxbridge. The detailed route will be decided by the partnership which also inc;udes Buckinghamshire County Council, the Chiltern Conservation Board and the Greenways and Cycleroutes charity. It will use existing Rights of Way, some private land and quiet roads, providing a new tourism route for those wanting to enjoy the great outdoors

The new route will better link local communities with schools, businesses and railway stations making it far easier for people to walk and cycle for everyday journeys.

James Cleeton, England Director South at Sustrans, said: “Creating this new traffic-free route will open up so many options for active, sustainable travel in the area, with the associated benefits of cleaner air and healthier people. It will also provide a new tourism destination in the Chilterns Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, giving more people cleaner access to the countryside.

“Improvement of the local walking and cycling network will also enable increased use by wheelchairs, mobility scooters, adapted cycles, pushchairs and cargo bikes. This is an important step towards our vision of creating paths for everyone on the National Cycle Network.”

Mark Shaw, Buckinghamshire County Council Deputy Leader and Transport Cabinet Member, said: “We’re great supporters of walking and cycling as ways to keep fit and healthy, and as an alternative to the car. This scheme is good news for our residents, and opens more ways for us all to enjoy Buckinghamshire’s beautiful countryside.”

Tom Beeston, Chiltern Society Chief Officer, said: “We’re excited to be working with Sustrans to increase access to this beautiful part of the world, ensuring that the route that’s developed is high-quality and sensitive to the needs of the different types of visitor to the Chilterns, and to the conservation of the area. This is an excellent opportunity to showcase the best of what the Chilterns has to offer.”

Sustrans will work together with local communities, schools and businesses to ensure that the route that is developed meets their needs. The charity recognises the importance of understanding people’s requirements in making the project a success.

The funding package from the Department for Transport follows Sustrans’ review of the National Cycle Network last year. The review led to the development of a new vision for the network: paths for everyone. Sustrans acknowledged that there are some significant problems with parts of the current network, for which the charity plays a custodian role, owning only 2% of the land that the Network covers.

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Green Belt and AONB Under Threat

Chiltern District Council and South Bucks District Council have recently been consulting on their joint Local Plan. The Plan aims to develop over 11,000 homes in the period up to 2036. Of these, 5,200 are proposed on 7.83km2 of land to be taken out of the Green Belt and 2 sites are proposed within the Chilterns Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB).

The Chiltern Society has submitted its objections to the Plan, which can be summarised as follows:

  • It is essential that planning policies are considered across local authority boundaries to co-ordinate protection of this special area. The Plan does not give the Chilterns sufficient protection and, therefore the Society objects to the overall plan.
  • There are no exceptional circumstances under the NPPF to justify any significant incursion into recognised GB and AONB areas given that housing need alone is not an exceptional circumstance.
  • The plan needs to be revised to consider whether there are less damaging sites that were not brought forward through the ‘call for sites’ and whether there is scope for higher density developments on brownfield sites and in town centres.
  • We urge the Councils to review the overall development approach in the plan to avoid unacceptable damage to a nationally important landscape and a significant part of the Green Belt.
  • We objected to the overall number of dwellings proposed in the Green Belt and to 2 site allocations in the Green Belt and AONB at Amersham, and to significant sites in the Green Belt at Chesham, Beaconsfield, Little Chalfont and Chalfont St Peter.

Following the consultations, the Council will submit the Local Plan to the Planning Inspectorate for an independent examination.

The full response can be found here.

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Buildings Design Award 2019 Presentation

This week, we had the great pleasure presenting awards to the owners, architects and builders of the three successful entrants for this year’s award.  Two design projects were awarded a winner’s plaque and the third received a highly commended certificate.  The event took place at Incurvo, Goring on Thames, designed by Adrian James Architects of Oxford.  The judges selected Incurvo as a beautiful and unique structure which significantly improved the previous use of the site.  The highest quality materials were used and the property was designed to be virtually carbon neutral.  The landscaped gardens considerably enhance the house with its curving forms, whilst the careful positioning of trees and other features allows stunning views of the Chiltern countryside beyond.

Knight Architects of High Wycombe, who specialise in bridge design, were presented with the second plaque.  This new footbridge is an important part of the regeneration of Taplow Riverside. Crossing the river from Taplow Riverside to Ray Mill Island, the bridge neatly solved the problem of lack of access to the Thames from the Taplow area.  The structure is a highly attractive addition to what was previously a run-down industrial area and a valuable new public amenity.

A highly commended award was presented to Dock Farm near Princes Risborough for a restoration project on a Grade II Listed 17th century farmhouse.  This was designed by DP Architects of Watlington who carried out restoration and improvements to the building which had fallen into a state of dilapidation.  The judges awarded this development for its rigour and restraint along with the meticulous care of the works carried out.  The farmhouse retains its simple Chilterns rustic character.

The Buildings Design Awards are run in partnership with the Chiltern Society and the Chilterns Conservation Board.

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Countryside North of Luton Under Threat

The Chiltern Society is opposed to the development of 4000 houses and a new A6 – M1 Link Road on land to the north of Luton, which would encroach on the Chilterns AONB and the Green Belt.

We will be giving evidence to the Public Examination of the Central Bedfordshire Local Plan in relation to the housing development and a freight interchange facility at Sundon. We consider that the housing development would not be able to demonstrate exceptional circumstances for developing within the AONB and this would not be in the public interest. It would, therefore, be contrary to national policy on AONBs.

The Plan proposes removing land from the Green Belt to allow for 4000 houses. We are not satisfied that there is sufficient evidence to demonstrate that exceptional circumstances exist for removing land from the Green Belt. Our view is that housing need on its own is not an exceptional circumstance that outweighs harm to the Green Belt.

Our full report to the Examination can be read here.

We have also objected to the planning application for development of the Link Road on both AONB and Green Belt grounds. This has included offering our full support to the detailed response submitted by the Chilterns Conservation Board. Our major concern is that this is being applied for before the development has been discussed at the Local Plan Examination.

Click here to read our comments on this application.

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Chilterns Buildings Design Awards 2019 – The Results

We are delighted to announce that our team of judges has chosen the three winning buildings for this year’s award. There are two design projects which will be awarded a winner’s plaque, the third will receive a Highly Commended award.

The first winner is ‘Incurvo’, a newly built residential property in Goring on Thames, designed by Adrian James Architects of Oxford. The judges picked out Incurvo as a beautiful and unique structure which significantly improves upon the previous use of the site. The highest quality materials have been used, such as the warm-toned Swanage bricks interspersed with panels of charcoal- coloured zinc.

A variable height zinc parapet round the edges of the flat roof serves the practical purpose of concealing the solar panels, photovoltaic panels and heat recovery system, whilst constituting a bold design feature. Various other energy-saving measures have been incorporated so that the house is almost carbon neutral.

The landscaped gardens wrap themselves around the sinuous curves of the house in perfect synergy with the building, whilst the planting has been carefully designed to provide stunning views of the Chiltern countryside beyond.

Our second winner is the River Thames Footbridge – an elegant new structure designed by Knight Architects of High Wycombe, who specialise in bridge design. It is an important part of the regeneration of Taplow Riverside. Crossing the river from Taplow Riverside to Ray Mill Island, it neatly solves the problem of lack of access to the Thames from the Taplow area. From the island one can join the Thames Path.

The steel structure has a 35m span and its shallow arch echoes the design of the nearby Brunel railway bridge, which has the widest and flattest brick arches in the world.

The judges said that not only is the bridge a highly attractive addition to what was previously a run-down industrial area, but a valuable new public amenity.

A Highly Commended award will be given to Dock Farm near Princes Risborough for a restoration project on a Grade II Listed 17th century farmhouse. The property has an elm timber frame with brick infill panels. Because of its age, these materials were obviously locally sourced and its style is that of a typical rustic Chilterns dwelling of the period.

DP Architects of Watlington were asked to carry out restoration and improvements to the building which had fallen into a state of dilapidation. The refurbishment enabled the removal of incongruous additions such as cooker hoods, and the reinstatement of a number of historic elements. The builders even uncovered an old well during the outside works, which has now become a garden feature.

The architects also managed to introduce energy-saving measures such as proper insulation, draft proofing and different types of double glazing to suit the range of different window styles, so the house is much snugger in winter and generally more breathable.  All this was achieved without compromising the original simple character of the farmhouse.

The judges praised this development for its rigour and restraint, and for the meticulous care with which the works were carried out.

The Buildings Design Awards are run jointly with the Chilterns Conservation Board.

Winner: ‘Incurvo’ 

Winner: River Thames Footbridge 

Highly Commended: Dock Farm


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Buildings Design Awards 2019- Update

These awards are a long-established competition run jointly by the Chiltern Society and the Chilterns Conservation Board. Our aim is to encourage the creation of high quality buildings in the Chilterns, applying standards including how the property contributes to the local distinctiveness of our region, how it relates to its location, use of suitable materials and appropriate landscaping. Another increasingly important factor is sustainability i.e. what measures has the architect used to minimise the impact of the property on the environment. The ultimate ambition would be to achieve Passievhaus status, meaning that the building would be carbon neutral.

In January we invited architects to send us details of their projects completed during the last 3 years. which they believed complied with the competition standards. We were delighted to receive 19 submissions from Beds, Berks, Bucks, Herts and Oxfordshire – an excellent representation of the entire Chilterns.

Earlier this month our judges met  to select properties they wished to shortlist, based on how well the buildings matched the judging criteria. Since many of the entries appear to be of a promising quality, it took the panel a full day to choose the 7 most exceptional ones.

The next step is for the judging team to visit the shortlisted properties which include a new footbridge over the Thames, an Oxfordshire country pub, a woodland cruck barn, a Berkshire home consisting entirely of curves, another with all the sharp angles of its 1970’s design and a restoration of a seventeenth century farmhouse.

The judges will be looking for those projects which best fit the key requirement that they contribute to the local distinctiveness of the Chilterns and the need to conserve and enhance the natural beauty of the area.

We will be ready to announce the winner of our coveted black plaque along with the highly commended properties by the end of May.

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In the Flightpath?

The Chiltern Society has commented on the recent consultation on Heathrow Airspace and Future Operations. This forms part of the long term planning for the addition of a new runway at Heathrow Airport.

The Airport is reviewing the flightpaths for arrivals and departures for all three runways and the Society is concerned as to what impact this would have in terms of noise and disturbance on the towns, villages and countryside within the Chilterns and the Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty in particular.

The full response can be read here, but some the main points can be summarised as follows:

  • We seek the minimisation of disturbance to residents, and users of the countryside within the whole Chilterns area.
  • Tranquillity and freedom from disturbance are key factors contributing to the special qualities of this nationally protected landscape.
  • We suggest a strategy that includes complete avoidance of particularly sensitive areas of the AONB and the alignment of routes over already-noisy parts of the AONB. Flightpaths should spread the burden by the use of the maximum number of routes used on a rotational basis, having regard for when the AONB is most likely to be used for quiet enjoyment.
  • Areas or corridors that merit complete avoidance could be identified through the measurement of baseline background noise levels as part of the Environmental Impact Assessment and other research.
  • The flightpaths will need to be considered in relation to other flightpaths, particularly from Luton Airport.
  • We are seeking ongoing engagement with Heathrow, in collaboration with the Chilterns Conservation Board (CCB), the statutory authority for the AONB.

Further formal consultations about the proposed air routes are expected in 2021 or 2022.

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New Housing Sites to be Identified in Three Rivers

The Chiltern Society responded in December 2018 to a consultation on the choice of housing sites in Three Rivers District for inclusion in the emerging Local Plan. Planning Field Officer, Barbara Paskins, reviewed the plan and visited many of the sites to assess potential impacts on the Green Belt and the Chilterns Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB).

The main area of concern was that the proposals would be likely to take land out of the Green Belt to allow for the Council to meet its housing target. Also, one of the larger sites would be located within the AONB. The Society expressed a preference for using brownfield land to cater for development needs wherever possible, but due to the scale of development required, some greenfield land is likely to be needed. The response includes some general comments on development in the District as well as comments on the impacts on specific sites.

The full response can be read here. 

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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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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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