13 December 2016
The consultation document can be found at http://www.southbucks.gov.uk/planning/localplan2014-2036
Aylesbury Vale Green Party believes that there is a need for new, affordable housing and that the greater part of this need can be met through the development of brownfield sites. We believe that any development in the countryside should be a last resort once all other options have been assessed. In particular, we believe that the purposes of the Green Belt as set out in the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) under paragraph 80 should be respected. In 2015 the Conservative Party Manifesto stated that they would protect the Green Belt. In 2016 we are being asked to identify which parts of the Green Belt in the Chilterns should now be built on.
The NPPF states that Green Belt boundaries should only be altered in exceptional circumstances (para 83). The Green Belt Preferred Options Public Consultation states that a key issue for the forthcoming Local Plan would be a review of the Green Belt and whether exceptional circumstances exist for a change in Green Belt boundaries, and whether that change would significantly harm the purposes of including land in the Green Belt (1,2(b)).
On page 9 the Consultation states that the ‘Councils have not made a decision yet on which sites should be removed from the Green Belt’ (our emphasis). The clear implication is that some sites will be removed – it remains only to choose them. But the decision has yet to be taken as to whether exceptional circumstances in fact exist.
We feel that the public is being asked effectively to engage in what appears to be some form of ‘beauty contest’ to identify which unlucky sites get to be built on. For this reason, we will not be making any comments on individual sites as to do so would be to endorse a process which seems entirely premature.
It would in any case be premature to make any judgment on exceptional circumstances at this stage. Following the completion of their consultation on the draft VALP as recently as September, neighbouring AVDC has announced that housing requirements will be revised significantly downwards in the light of new population projections. And the government’s own pilot project on brownfield sites has shown that there is room for more than 75,000 homes than previously believed on brownfield sites in the South East and the East of England, precisely where the demand on the Green Belt is at its greatest.
Aylesbury Vale Green Party believes this consultation is premature and misleading, and runs the risk of establishing a principle that areas of Green Belt will be lost before the exceptional circumstances required to justify that loss have been identified.