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From the Rt. Hon. Greg Smith MP for Buckingham
“Since my election I have made it clear that I am against over development and the loss of any further green space in my constituency. It is vital Buckinghamshire is protected from over-development and it is right the government refocuses housebuilding to big towns and cities, especially to level up the north and midlands
It is clear there has been some serious issues with the planning process of this application for 170 new houses on the northern edge of Maids Moreton village. The site was originally declared unsuitable in the HELAA as development would not relate to existing pattern of development in the village and there is no suitable access to the land. Any development would have significantly extended the village in the North East into open countryside. Despite this, a planning application was put in by David Wilson Homes in January 2016. Residents believed they were in safe hands because of the original decision to declare the land unsuitable and there was a surprise an application had even been put in
In HELAA version 4 that suitability for development decision had been overturned. The document now read that the area was suitable for development. All the reasons given for it being unsuitable for development had been deleted. This came as very distressing news to residents who had not been consulted beforehand
The planning application and the allocation of the site in the Local Plan are two distinct processes carefully regulated by the National Planning Policy Framework, both of which requires that all development is ‘sustainable’ and that community involvement in the process ensures a ‘collective vision’ of such sustainable growth
In the case of this planning application it appears that neither of these fundamental principles have been adhered to. Instead, the development has been determined essentially on the basis of developers expressing an interest in developing a site. Thereafter, all other guidance and regulation has been swept aside
I have long felt that the reason people want to live in places like Maids Moreton in my constituency is because it is rural. The loss of any further agricultural or green land challenges that very characteristic and must be resisted at all costs. I will continue to be very clear on this in Parliament and locally — and have already stressed the point to the Housing Minister and our local council leadership. I will support the residents of Maids Moreton by pressing their concerns with the local authority“VIA EMAIL
From former Councillors at Buckinghamshire Council and AVDC
“A well made film and worth the investment. The decision to more than double the size of the village is one of the worst decisions AVDC and Buckinghamshire Council have ever made. I sat on the original Strategic Planning Committee as a councillor representing an Aylesbury ward and voted against the application, the only Conservative that did. My heart went out to the residents who gave evidence at that meeting particularly when the application was passed. I wish you good luck in your endeavours”Cllr. Roger King (former councillor for Buckinghamshire Council, Mandeville & Elm Farm ward)
From current Councillors at Buckinghamshire Council
“It’s a very good film in hindsight but as a member of the planning committee at the time and on the site visit these factors were all taken into consideration. It’s a very difficult job but we do need housing. I understand your objective, but this is how it works: the officers recommended to approve looking at the evidence. We are only there for a short time. We read the papers. Very difficult decisions are taken.”CLLR ASHLEY BOND, (BUCKINGHAMSHIRE COUNCIL WING WARD)
“Very well made and compelling.”CLLR MICHAEL BRACKEN, (BUCKINGHAMSHIRE COUNCIL GERRARDS CROSS WARD)
“This documentary was sent to me and my fellow Gerrards Cross Councillors in the days following the election results. I do think proper local consultation is immensely important and I will be doing my utmost to make sure that this vital duty is discharged. Personally, I believe we should vigorously protect our green spaces and think very carefully about where we locate any large development.”CLLR. Thomas Broom, (Buckinghamshire Council Gerrards Cross ward)
“This documentary is extremely well produced and argued. I fully support you in your opposition to the proposed development in Maids Moreton on a range of valid grounds. I have had similar experience of arguing against planning applications in the area I have represented as a Councillor where AVDC supported the developers.”Cllr John Chilver, (Buckinghamshire Council Winslow ward)
“I have been a councillor in the county for many years and the bulk of my time as a councillor has been taken in addressing issues relating to planning. I am very aware of the ‘not fit for purpose’ of our planning department, and at his time the service the department provides falls short of what we would expect. This is a widely held view of councillors, and be assured we make our feelings well known to Martin Tett , Leader of the Council.”Cllr Mike Collins, (Buckinghamshire Council Aston Clinton & Bierton ward)
“From a personal perspective I am not surprised by the narrative in the video at all. I was elected to AVDC in 2014 and it was apparent even then that the management of VALP was a shambles…..
…..Even from the earliest drafts of VALP the leadership of AVDC was warned that it was not fit for purpose and would likely be rejected by the Governments Planning Inspector which is exactly what happened to the first draft. AVDC Councillors were given so many deadlines for the completion and adoption of VALP that I have lost count. None of them were hit and we are now many years overdue an adopted local plan for the Vale.
AVDC undertook a policy of Commercialisation in 2013/2014 that was accelerated following the local election in 2015. As a direct result of this idiotic policy the planning department of AVDC was gutted of qualified and experienced planning officers and severely under resourced. In an attempt to plug these staffing gaps the council resorted to hiring expensive agency staff who were not familiar with local history or context.
I have long held the view that the result was a planning department that struggled to be fit for purpose and many errors were made as a result. The experience of Maids Morton seems like a perfect example.”Cllr. Anders Christensen, (Buckinghamshire Council Aylesbury North ward)
“A great piece of work well done!…
We did indeed fight long and hard against a case with many similarities to your own! We unfortunately still ended up losing despite taking it to the High Court. The problems haven’t gone away though of course and we continue to highlight them to the council and land promoters at the stage we are at now where they are putting development briefs together!…
Worth noting, in our area the level of the proposed development and (what we felt was) disregard from the council is the single biggest concern of about 80%+ of our wards residents and the reason why we managed to turn over 3 strong conservative seats to Independents, such is the sentiment.”Cllr Penny Drayton, (Buckinghamshire Council The Wooburns, Bourne End & Hedsor ward)
“Well done for publishing this video. I am very impressed It gives a comprehensive insight into the site and the planning process. This raises very important questions which need to be answered
My best wishes for the people of Maids Moreton”CLLR. Mohammad Fayyaz (BUCKINGHAMSHIRE COUNCIL, CHILTERN RIDGES WARD)
“I had been provided this several times by different people and have watched it – also passed it on to colleagues on Hazlemere Parish Council where we are working on a neighbourhood plan in order to try to stop or control such developments in the future.”Cllr Ed Gemmell, (Buckinghamshire Council Hazlemere ward)
“I watched in shock the other week as the tale unfolded. I was on the Planning Committee for the Southern Area last term and hope to be again. There are so many things wrong with the process which I and others will be bringing up.”Cllr Paul Griffin, (Buckinghamshire Council Iver ward)
When I was a County Cllr I had started to notice similar patterns in regards to planning applications around Wycombe, which started to alarm me. That officers were getting involved and in the instance of one particular planning application in which the whole suburb called ‘Sands’ in High Wycombe, the majority of the residents were against this application but it got bulldozed through by the leading officer from the Wycombe Planning department.”Cllr Darren Hayday, (Buckinghamshire Council West Wycombe ward)
“I have great sympathy with Maids Moreton’s situation. I live right in the south of the county and have set up an activist group called Keep South Bucks Green. Villages are being turned into semi-urban areas all over the south. Buckinghamshire’s population is expected to grow and the Council is under great pressure to ‘Build, build, build’. Here is what I think we, the Council, and we the people of Buckinghamshire should do:
– the new Bucks Local Plan should be made up of all the Neighbourhood Plans of the parishes – a true bottom-up approach
– the Neighbourhood Plans should include a Design Code and so should the Local Plan, which reflects beautiful, traditional architecture which enhances local villages rather than being an eye-sore
– we should encourage home working so we can use brownfield sites e.g. offices and replace them with housing to avoid the need to build on our beautiful countryside
– those in the North and those in the South need to realise that we are in the same boat: the immense pressure to build won’t stop for any of us until projections stop saying the population will grow. We need to recognise we cannot have a limitless growing population if we want to protect our countryside and wildlife. We and other councils should pressure the central Government to lower net migration as a starting point. The country is more densely populated than Japan and the 2nd most densely populated in Europe already. There are already no wild areas left in England and bio-diversity is taking a hammering.
– We need greater accountability and transparency around the planning process.
I will be in touch with Warren Whyte to discuss this in more detail.”Cllr Thomas Hogg, (Buckinghamshire Council Stoke Poges & Wexham ward)
“A well produced video, Several of the officers named in the video have left the Council since it became Buckinghamshire Council, so it is unlikely that comments will come forward from . I do remember discussions on housing numbers when the VALP was in consultation stage. I think it is a totally unsuitable site for development and should a detailed planning application be submitted, hopefully before the local Planning Group and not Strategic, I would be happy to speak against the application”Cllr. Howard Mordue, (Bucks Council, Buckingham East ward)
“Watching this video has been beneficial. We (Howard, Ade, Warren) stand for improved local participation in planning decisions, so we will be supporting Maids Moreton and other villages with similar challenges in this regard. Ade Osibogun on behalf of the Conservative Buckingham East Team”Cllr. Ade Osibogun (Buckinghamshire Council, Buckingham East ward)
“I found it fascinating viewing.”Cllr Adam Poland-Goodyer, (Buckinghamshire Council Aylesbury West ward)
“I found this fascinating, inspiring but also rather depressing. This seems to demonstrate very clearly how the council is being led by the needs of developers and not recognising the needs of communities. The quote towards the end “frankly the Council have been too close to the developer” has stayed with me”Cllr. Gregory Smith (Buckinghamshire Council, Bernwood ward)
“What an absolutely gob smacking eye opener that was! Thank you for drawing it to my attention and I will certainly keep abreast of developments and review any in my own locality with my new found knowledge.”Cllr Melanie Smith, (Buckinghamshire Council Downley ward)
“Stunningly horrifying. I speak as a former AVDC Councillor (who was not on the Strategic Development Committee)”CLLR. Sir Beville Stanier Bt (BUCKINGHAMSHIRE COUNCIL, Winslow WARD)
“A well constructed summary of events pertaining to this site, which in truth should never had proceeded to the point of awaiting an Inspectors decision!
How a site originally deemed to be the least suitable for inclusion in the VALP can change to suitable without any supporting evidence, just beggars belief and calls into question the whole decision making process in AVDC and now in the planning department in the Bucks Council, which should be open and transparent to the public in particular and to all Councillors
The decision by the various committees to grant approval needs to be looked into by the current Cabinet Member, even if this means upsetting the previous holders of this post and the committee members.
If the Inspector does find in favour of the developers, the lack of transparency in the change from unsuitable to a suitable site calls for a Judicial Review and if this leads to the collapse of the VALP, so be it.”Cllr David Thompson, (Buckinghamshire Council Aylesbury South East ward)
“I had already watched the video in fact, and I sympathise with this serious issue.”Cllr Alison Wheelhouse, (Buckinghamshire Council Beaconsfield ward)
“These are excellent films that summarise a series of very bad decisions by the local planning authority over a number of years, and I continue to fight against the proposals with residents of Maids Moreton and surrounding communities”CLLR. WARREN WHYTE (BUCKINGHAMSHIRE COUNCIL, BUCKINGHAM EAST WARD
“I have just watched the excellent documentary – it all sounds so familiar to the KBEG campaign here in Bourne End with the Wycombe Local Plan. Planning Officers seem to be a law unto themselves at times.”Cllr Stuart Wilson, (Buckinghamshire Council The Wooburns, Bourne End & Hedsor ward)
“I’ve watched the documentary in full this afternoon which I must say is very professionally made. I could feel all of your pain, and as mentioned by Warren White at the end the final decision fell to the chair of the panel, who became judge and jury. It has left me with some thinking to do.”Cllr Andrew Wood, (Buckinghamshire Council Gerrards Cross ward)
From residents associations and campaigning groups
“The video highlights an issue which is at the heart of the problems with the current planning system. This is that there are, in fact, two facets to the Council. On the one hand there are professional planning staff who are not accountable to the public and on the other hand there are democratically elected councillors who frequently do not have the expertise, or the knowledge, to challenge the planning staff’s recommendations. As a result, it is frequently left to local residents to try to challenge decisions, but they have no authority. Maids Moreton is a very good case study on this key issue that needs to be fixed. Unfortunately, it was not addressed in the “Planning for the Future” White Paper and probably won’t be in the upcoming Planning Bill because this is a governance issue, not a process one.CPRE BUCKINGHAMSHIRE
“This campaign group have adopted an objective facts and evidence based approach, and highlighted some worrying procedural failings at the Local Planning Authority. These have had serious impacts on the delivery of Democratic and Localism policies so cherished by the government. Their communications are first class through their web site and the professional, informed & informative, and helpful video. Best Practice standards have been set in how campaigners should approach similar Local Plan challenges from initial consultations through the site allocations to specific housing applications. Some of the documented evidence in how Planning Officers appear to have made LAA and HEDNA changes with no notification to County and Parish Cllrs, let alone residents, raise serious procedural questions that the Local Planning Authority should have independently reviewed”SIMON THOMAS, CPRE HAMPSHIRE & CPA (COMMUNITY PLANNING ALLIANCE)
“BNG can identify wholeheartedly with many of the issues your documentary spotlights, including the lack of transparency and dissembling by the Council and the overwhelming feeling of unfairness”Brown Not Green (Chesham)
“This is a great and well put together documentary…a very salient story which is really frustrating for local people and communities. It would be good to discuss how we can change this.”The Chiltern Society
Thank you for this informative documentary. It clearly highlights quite a few of the problems we have encountered with the planning process in Bucks. Comparing notes, for example, it is interesting to see that others have encountered identical FOI stonewalling, and council officer’s consultation paper’s completely inaccurate.”Locals4AONB
“Your issues and experience are so similar to the Princes Risborough Expansion Plan now part of the WDALP (former Wycombe District). We face 2500 houses on greenfields in the setting of the Chilterns AONB, with hosts of sustainability, road and delivery issues yet Council policy and a party whipped vote forced it through without any community support or effective input”Risborough Area Resident’s Association
“I commend you on an excellent video that perfectly illustrates the gulf between councils and residents. Sites should be scrutinised thoroughly before being put forward to a Local Plan. Unfortunately we have a problem in our village where the council has decided two massive 24/7 warehouses would sit very well next to: residential, 4 blue chip offices, 2 nature reserves and an organic farm. I will stop there and say that the officers that have looked at the developer’s reports have merely carried out a lack lustre tick boxing exercise just to prove the development is sound from their perspective.”Save Maple Cross (Carolyn Weston)
“This is exactly our experience. In fact our merry go round with the council and investigations have proven very unethical and highlighted the huge waste of money from councillors who do not live in Winslow”Winslow Residents Association
“It appears that Maids Moreton is a victim of the powerful property lobby cabal of national and local governments, Tory politicians, landowners, banks and financiers, personal and corporate investors, aggressive developers and even local authorities all sharing a common interest, build, build , build, We’ve had similar problems with the Blenheim Estate and the West Oxfordshire District Council here in Woodstock. Best of luck in your endeavours“Bob McGurrin (Chair), Woodstock Action Group (WAG)
“I have viewed your video and as with other people’s comments found it very impressive. I wish you some success with your crusade but fear as implied in the video that developers often do hold the upper hand by fair means or foul.”CHRIS BUTTERWORTH (CHAIR). CHIPPING NORTON NEIGHBOURHOOD PLAN (AND TOWN COUNCIL)
“What a fine and calmly argued critique of a planning system that’s unfit for purpose. It displays a David and Goliath situation with the larger party acting monstrously and ineptly. This Council do not deserve to win this case and I hope it’s efforts fail at the last hurdle. Oh dear, I feel so sorry for the residents who must have lost sleep, time, and money in their search for a proper hearing and justice. I fear this film displays another example to be added to the increasing database of instances of Democratic Deficit across our country”The Buckingham Society (Ed Grimsdale)
“The Buckingham Society has opposed, and continues to oppose, both the Maids Moreton and the Moreton Road developments. They will inevitably have major consequences for our town if they go ahead. The problem isn’t about additional houses, we all know that there is a need for more housing. The issues are too many houses in the wrong places. The Buckingham Society has worked with the Town Council in producing a coherent plan for the development of Buckingham and that is what should be used to decide what should happen in our town. Not something forced upon us by people who know little or nothing about Buckingham”The Buckingham Society (Roger Edwards)
From Buckingham Town Councillors
“Superb, well made documentary which has left me and others watching it incredulous at what has been happening in Maids Moreton. The change to the HELAA from unsuitable to suitable remains a great, unexplained mystery and one which needs to be addressed. Two factors need to be taken into consideration, any residents concerns and sustainability assessment. It seems planning/council have failed in both. The residents objections are all fair and thoroughly researched, looking at the long term impact of development on this site. The consequences of which will not only have grave environmental impacts, but it would put so many additional pressures on the surrounding areas too. Not to mention how it would alter Maids Moreton as a village.”Cllr. Robina Ahmed (Buckingham Town Council, North ward)
“This is a video which everyone in Buckingham and the villages should watch – Maids Moreton makes a strong case against the local planning authority (AVDC, now Buckinghamshire Council) for not listening to residents, planning experts and a half-dozen parish and town councils regarding an unwanted 170-house development which will increase the village population by 60 per cent. I have led Buckingham Town Council’s opposition to it, as if it goes ahead the town centre will be swamped with more traffic, and shops, schools, medical facilities and other local services swamped by more people. It is not over yet”Cllr. Mark Cole JP (Buckingham Town Council, North ward)
“What an excellently produced documentary. As Chairman of BTC’s Planning Committee we have fought many applications that appear to be planner led rather than listening to those who live and breathe local knowledge, especially as BTC has a ‘made’ Neighbourhood Development Plan that continuously and consistently gets ignored by developers and the Shire Council (my pen name for them). All developments should be sustainable and work for the community not for those with deep pockets. Well done Maids Moreton Villagers, stay strong!”Cllr. Lisa O’Donaghue (Buckingham Town Council, South ward)
“Finally had the opportunity to view this documentary in its entirety. First I want say all credit to the filmmakers and those featuring in the piece – this is a truly excellent programme! The arguments are very well summarised and presently clearly, with superb editing and cinematography.
As to the substance my simple question is this: do we currently have an accountable councillor run planning system or one that is being controlled and administered in plain sight by planning officers? I fear it is the latter.
When even local councillors cannot discover why the site was changed from being unsuitable to suitable, then this suggests a degree of unaccountable opacity that frankly I find breathtaking.
Meanwhile, we can all only hope that the Planning Inspector becomes abundantly aware of the circular argument presented at the end of the tape – and removes this allocated site from the draft VALP.”Cllr. Jon Harvey (Buckingham Town Council, South ward)
“Thank you for publishing this video. It gives a comprehensive insight into the sight and the planning process so far. It seems to me that there remain grave concerns over the suitability and sustainability of the site and that there have been a number of irregularities in the process so far. On the basis of this evidence I would not support development of this site. Planning for Buckinghamshire development is under significant pressure. However, it is absolutely vital that sustainability criteria, in terms of environment, climate change, accessibility and the character of the village receive the highest level of priority in planning decisions”Dr. Anja Schaefer (Buckingham Town Council, North ward)
“As a former Parish Councillor, I was very impressed at how this was reported. It was accurate in detail and from my take, it was very accurate to events. I fought this development from 2017-2019 when I served on the council and understand that many residents were let down by Buckinghamshire Council“CLLR. Ryan Willett (Buckingham Town Council, North ward)