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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Planning Campaign Leader

Are you passionate about protecting the Chilterns as a unique and special place to live ? Do you have the drive and commitment to lead a successful campaign, building support from our community and other organisations to influence local and national government ?

Our Planning Group urgently needs a Campaign Leader to step up our campaign to prevent unsustainable development into the Chilterns Area of Outstanding National Beauty and Green Belt.  You’ll be used to working in a volunteering role, and how to work with other volunteers to achieve results.

We’re looking for someone, maybe from a marketing background, with skills and experience in leadership, communication and management of diverse stakeholders to influence senior levels of local and national government.  There is no need for detailed knowledge of planning regulations, as you will have support from experts in our Planning Group.  However you do need an understanding of how government operates and how to collaborate with other organisations in the area such as the Chilterns Conservation Board, Campaign to Protect Rural England, Natural England, District and County Councils.

The role needs to drive out tangible results from our already publicised Planning Manifesto.  This safeguards the AONB, protects the Green Belt, overhauls the methods for calculating housing need, scales infrastructure, favours brownfield and infill usage, and promotes good building design.  The first goal is to build a coalition of MPs across the Chilterns to support our Manifesto and change housing calculations.  The Chiltern Society supports the needs of local businesses and affordable housing for local people, rather than  unfettered free market priority for multi-million pound commuterland.

To discuss more about how you could fit this role please contact:

Merrin Molesworth: : tel: 01494 773381

Michael Jepson: tel: 01494 837602

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Will your future MP support our Green Belt Campaign?

We have written  to all General Election candidates standing  in the sixteen constituencies across the Chilterns region asking them to support our campaign to protect the Green Belt and the Chilterns Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty from over-development. You can see a copy of our letter below.

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Our Response to the Housing White Paper

Our Planning Group has recently submitted its response to the Housing White Paper.

Within the wide-ranging White Paper, there were some proposals to welcome, including encouragement of small and custom-builders, greater emphasis on design standards, more support for providers of affordable houses, increased powers for local authorities to assemble land and deliver homes themselves, a hike in application fees to help cash-strapped planning departments, and the potential introduction of an appeal fee.

But, if anything, the White Paper increased our grave concern that in the drive to build more homes, local authorities will feel compelled to turn to Green Belt or other designated land. They are still being required to make every effort to meet theoretically-assessed “need” locally if at all possible, with no “automatic” allowance given to reduce numbers even when there is significant Green Belt or other designated land. Furthermore, the proposed revised wording of national planning policy implies that use of Green Belt land will be a legitimate way to do this, once all other options have been explored. The problem is exacerbated in areas like the Chilterns, when neighbouring authorities are also “constrained” by protected land, thus removing the scope to transfer provision elsewhere.

On top of this, the sanctions that already apply when local authorities fail to maintain a 5-year supply of allocated housing land are being supplemented by an additional housing delivery test (based on the numbers of homes actually built), seemingly oblivious to the fact that the actual delivery of housing is almost wholly outside of their control.

Even under the existing rules, 8 out of 10 local authorities in the Chilterns are seriously considering use of Green Belt land, so these threats are real and current.

Early consultation on a revised method of calculating need was promised by the White Paper, but the general election will inevitably delay this. As well as responding to consultations of this sort, our Planning Campaign is using various means to highlight these dangers and lobby for changes to the rules.

Our full response is available here and the Housing White Paper itself is available at:

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Working together to protect The Chilterns

A new grouping of organisations across the Chilterns has come together to protect the Green Belt and Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) which are under threat from an unprecedented housing tidal wave. There is currently an assessed need for 135,000 new dwellings in the Chilterns, with eight out of ten local authorities in the Chilterns identifying a need to build on the Green Belt with some small incursions into the AONB. A recent workshop co-hosted by the Chiltern Society and the Buckinghamshire branch of the Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE) was also attended by representatives of the London Green Belt Council, the Chilterns Conservation Board, CPRE National Office and CPRE Branches from Oxfordshire, Hertfordshire and Bedfordshire.

The shared messages of the respective organisations are as follows:

  • Government and Local Authorities need to make a long term commitment to protect the Green Belt and AONB, ensuring action and not just empty words.
  • Realistic housing targets that account for Green Belt and AONB designations are required based on real local need not aspirational market demand.
  • A clearer, more restricted, definition of ‘exceptional circumstances ’is needed for Green Belt releases and AONB developments and assurance that housing need does not override Green Belt and AONB designations. There should also be less opportunity for local government to interpret the NPPF to suit their agenda.

The team of organisations will be lobbying MPs in the Chilterns for support and will continue to work closely together to protect the best interests of the Chiltern countryside.

Watch closely for further details about the team’s planned activities!

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