Housing tidal wave threatens our special Chilterns countryside

The Chiltern Society has expressed its increasing concern at a “tidal wave” of planning applications which it says seriously threaten the special Chilterns countryside.

“The new year has started with district councils putting forward ever worrying threats to the Green Belt and even the Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB),” said Society trustee Paul Mason.

“We cautiously welcome the Government’s decision to designate Aylesbury as a Garden Town  because it will help the local council to plan in a co-ordinated way for the 27,000 homes that are due to be built in the Aylesbury Vale over the next few years. The council  can now look at the bigger picture ensuring there will be plenty of green spaces, trees, gardens and walking and cycle ways, and a balance of jobs and homes. We will be monitoring progress to try and ensure that happens

“However, in stark contrast is the situation in the rest of the area in and around the Chilterns where a tidal wave of tens of thousands of new houses are planned in Buckinghamshire, Hertfordshire, Bedfordshire and Oxfordshire. Some of these are on Green Belt and encroach the AONB.”

Mr Mason added: “It is inconceivable that Government planning policy is putting most local authorities in a position where they  feel they need to consider a cavalier and short sighted approach to the beauty and heritage of our special Chilterns landscape.

“The method for estimating future housing demand in the Chilterns is clumsy and flawed.  It needs to focus on realistic local requirements – including housing, business and infrastructure – and not simply be a response to a blanket Government formulae.

“The Society is calling on local authorities to be bold and look again at the rationale of permanently damaging the countryside for the sake of complying with current Government planning guidelines.”

The Chiltern Society, with 7,000 members, is the leading conservation charity in the Chilterns with hundreds of active volunteers maintaining important heritage sites and nature reserves.

Chairman David Harris said: “We oppose development within or affecting the setting of the AONB which fails to conserve or enhance the natural beauty.  We believe that any new development within the AONB should be small scale and restricted to land within existing developments or on brownfield sites.

“We also oppose new development in existing Green Belt which fails to protect its openness, or undermines its purposes, including the unrestricted sprawl of large built-up areas and neighbouring towns merging into one another.”

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Chilterns Countryside Under Threat

A current tidal wave of planning applications seriously threaten our special Chiltern countryside.  Pressures for more dwellings in the Chilterns originate from Central Government planning guidelines used by County and District councils to calculate housing demand.  These demands now threaten the Green Belt and even the AONB.

The Chiltern Society Trustees and the Planning Group have a clear policy on these threats. The Society opposes development, within or affecting the setting of the Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB), which fails to conserve or enhance the natural beauty. As a consequence, to be acceptable, new development within the AONB should be small-scale and restricted to land within existing settlements or on brownfield sites. The Society also opposes development in the existing Green Belt which fails to protect its openness, or undermines its five purposes (to check the unrestricted sprawl of large built-up areas; to prevent neighbouring towns merging into one another; to assist in safeguarding the countryside from encroachment; to preserve the setting and special character of historic towns; and to assist in urban regeneration, by encouraging the recycling of derelict and other urban land).

The members of the Chiltern Society Planning Group are the unsung heroes monitoring and as necessary making responses to planning applications and proposals. Their efforts are crucial in the protection of our special countryside. In addition to this key Planning Group activity, the Trustees hope to re-energise the Planning Campaign team working, either on its own or in collaboration with like minded organisations, to protect the AONB and Green Belt.. We will keep you posted of developments!

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The Chilterns will suffer permanent damage if massive Green Belt land grab goes ahead

The Chiltern Society is concerned that The Chilterns will suffer permanent damage if the amount of Green Belt being considered by two councils is released for development.

In a joint public consultation document, Chiltern and South Bucks District Councils are seeking views on potentially releasing over a 1,000 acres of Green Belt for housing and business development.

Our position is that there is no justification for releasing such a massive amount of Green Belt. These local authorities want to make space for over 5,000 dwellings and provide room for around 40 hectares of business development on 15 different sites.

Chairman David Harris said: “We are horrified by the scale of what is proposed. If allowed, it would cause permanent damage to the character of the Chilterns. Last year across the whole of the UK 1,000 hectares of land was removed from the Green Belt. This one proposal alone would release over 400 hectares, nearly half of last year’s nationwide figure. It amounts to a gigantic Green Belt land grab.

Of course we recognise that local authorities are under enormous pressure to find land for new homes and businesses but we need to be convinced that in preparing their Local Plans the councils are not just taking the easy option of using protected Green Belt. They need to exhaust all other options for development like using former industrial sites or consider a higher density of building in built-up areas. There is no evidence they have done this. Green Belt is designated not just because it looks pretty. It plays a vital role in preventing urban sprawl and protecting the countryside for the benefit of everyone.

The Society maintains that the method for calculating housing need in the Chilterns is clumsy and flawed.  Housing need in the Chilterns should be made on the basis of local requirements, including those of local businesses.

It should not be made on the projected potential movements of population into the area from outside. We are concerned that the current system puts an intolerable strain on existing facilities and infrastructure and puts local councils in the Chilterns in an unfair and impossible position. Local Authorities should not  be compelled to meet these so-called ‘objectively assessed housing needs.

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