Maids Moreton & Foscote Action Group are organising an Easter Egg Hunt this Good Friday 15th April from 2 ’til 4pm. This will take place amongst the beautiful bluebells at Foscote Manor. All proceeds will go the the fighting fund!
After 6 long years of manouevering, on 24th March, Buckinghamshire Council signed the controversial S106 agreement with David Wilson Homes and Vitalograph Ltd, giving the green light for the 170 homes site to go ahead. In a very detailed report they state that they see no reason to refer the application back to the planning committee, despite what many people say is new information regarding traffic and ecology issues and despite the 3-member call-in by Cllrs. Whyte, Osibogun and Mordue.
Maids Moreton & Foscote Action Group have issued a statement responding to the day’s events
Today planning permission for the 170 houses behind Manor Park was granted by Buckinghamshire Council. There are now just 6 weeks to file for a Judicial Review. Discussions are taking place with a barrister confirming advice given on the merits of a Judicial Review in light of the new documentation published on the planning portal. We will report back to the village early next week on whether the Action Group will be able to support this legal actionMAIDS MORETON & FOSCOTE ACTION GROUP, MARCH 24th 2022
Maids Moreton was never going to be put off by heavy rain and 18 mph winds…!
At 12pm today, over 100 villagers gathered with banners, wellies and brollies to walk the public footpath across the site of the proposed 170 homes. Local MP Greg Smith and ward councillor Warren Whyte also joined to show their support. Mr. Smith followed up by Tweeting a strong message to Buckinghamshire Council:
“Despite the rain, wonderful to join so many on the protest walk in Maids Moreton earlier. New homes should only be built on brownfield sites, with our beautiful Bucks countryside protected. The current planning consent in Maids Moreton is totally wrong and must be called in”Rt.Hon. Greg Smith, MP for buckingham ON TWITTER
Cllr. Warren Whyte also backed Greg Smith’s calls for the application to be reconsidered:
“Despite the awful weather, it’s an amazing turn out for the Maids Moreton and Foscote Action Group protest walk, inc our MP @gregsmith_uk today.
@BucksCouncil still has time to respect local views and also to respect the councillor call in. #brownfield first. @GarethWatBucksCLLR. WARREN WHYTE, BUCKINGHAM EAST WARD, BUCKINGHAMSHIRE COUNCIL oN TWITTER
Residents are being invited to join members of the Action Group to stand along the footpath from midday to 12.30pm in protest against the proposed development. This will be happening on greenfield sites throughout Buckinghamshire and the rest of the UK
Sausage rolls and refreshments will be served afterwards at Foscote Manor until 1pm and, weather permitting, the woods of Foscote Manor will be open to view the snowdrops from 1-2pm. Entry to view the snowdrops will be £5 per adult with free entry for children and well-behaved dogs!
Maids Moreton & Foscote Action Group have expressed huge gratitude to all who attended the ‘Where Do We Go From Here?’ meeting at the Village Hall on Sunday 16th January. If there ever was any doubt about Maids Moreton’s determination to fight the 170 homes planning application, this will have been dispelled by the sight of the village hall packed to the rafters on a wintery day in the middle of a pandemic! Thanks are also due to Cllr. Howard Mordue for coming along and playing an active part in the discussion.
For villagers and friends who were unable to attend but would like to hear what was discussed, a brief summary can be provided. Please email email@example.com
Many people have asked when and how donations can be made. Full details will be made available as soon as the need arises but the intention is to use the online crowdfunding platform Just Giving. The details will be posted via email, newsletter and social media.
Where do we go from here? The fight against this development continues. Kate Pryke will be outlining the current situation and the options going forward in a public meeting at Maids Moreton Village Hall on Sunday 16th January
Shock and disappointment at the release of the Inspector’s Report. A statement from Maids Moreton & Foscote Action Group reads:
“You may be aware that the Inspector’s Report into the ‘soundness’ of the Vale of Aylesbury Local Plan (VALP) has now been published. As part of this Report, the Inspector reviewed the inclusion of the Maids Moreton site (MMO006) as an allocated site for development. We are deeply disappointed to inform you that the Inspector has found the allocation of the Maids Moreton site ‘sound’. This means that we will not be able to stop houses being built on that site in the long run. It has been a terrific campaign involving the whole community, and our great success was achieving a second Hearing Session for the VALP allocation before planning permission was granted, although we are saddened that we were not able to convince the Inspector the site should be removed from the VALP.
“We will now focus on negotiating with the Council to secure the best possible s106 Agreement together with Maids Moreton Parish Council, Foscote Parish Meeting, Buckingham Town Council and Parish Councils from the neighbouring villages. The s106 Agreement is the legal agreement between the Council and the developer which sets out the developer’s obligations and financial contributions. As drafted, the s106 Agreement fails to implement the resolution of the Strategic Sites Committee which would render granting planning permission unlawful. In the first instance, we will be appealing to our local Councillor, Warren Whyte, to call the planning application back to committee for a third determination. Failing that, we will seek legal advice on the best way to proceed.“MMFAG, 4th September 2021
There will be more news to follow. The Inspector’s Report can be found here:
Maids Moreton in The Times and local press!
Coinciding with the release of Maids Moreton: Beyond The Boundary Part 2, the 170 homes planning application has been featuring in the local and national press.
Buckingham Advertiser picked up the story for the front page of the Friday 16th July edition. You can read the full article full here Groups join forces to petition Bucks Council leader over new homes planning process | Buckingham Advertiser
Bucks Radio covered the same story on Monday 19th July. You can view the web page here Maids Moreton residents urge Bucks Council to reconsider build of 170 homes in the area |Bucks Radio
The Times online featured an article on Tuesday 27th July, entitled “Wildlife rules ‘too easy to manipulate’ by builders”. The Times’ Environment Editor, Ben Webster, covers some of the issues with the developer’s biodiversity net gain report after speaking to Professor Tim Shreeve
Tim Shreeve, professor of conservation ecology at Oxford Brookes University, examined net gain plans by David Wilson Homes, part of Barratt, for 170 homes on a greenfield site in Maids Moreton, Buckinghamshire.
He said some of the “species-rich grassland” the developer proposed to plant to achieve biodiversity gain was going to be children’s play areas, meaning its value for wildlife had been exaggerated. Hedgerows that were in good condition had been downgraded to “moderate”, which made it easier to claim they would be improved, he said
“The biodiversity metrics have been applied with erroneous initial values and the so-called biodiversity plan is really a work of fiction,” he added.
Barratt said: “On this development the information used and provided to the local authority follows the relevant and applicable guidance, has been accepted by the local authority and our biodiversity plans will develop as the development progresses through the planning process.”The times, 27th july 2021
Following the marathon VALP Hearing Sessions on MMO006 in April, the Planning Inspector has accepted additional written evidence supplied by village residents and the Maids Moreton & Foscote Action Group as VALP Examination Documents. These include:
- ED273A to ED273D – documents showing the absence of an hourly bus service serving the village. Council officers have previously told the Inspector such a service exists and used the claim as evidence for the classification as a ‘Medium Village’ in the Settlement Hierarchy
- ED276 – evidence on the status of MM CE School as an infant school
- ED277 – evidence on the historic nature of some of the village’s buildings
- ED279A to ED279D – evidence of the current levels of traffic within the village
- ED 284 (and ED284A to ED284G) – evidence clarifying the Council’s position on the proposed mitigations for Mill Lane. Council officers initially told the Inspector that the measures were to ‘facilitate the additional traffic’ whereas previous statements from the Highways Authority show that the measures are to ‘deter traffic’ from using the route, feeding it along Moreton Road to Buckingham town centre instead
- ED293 (and ED293A to ED293C) – a report analysing the cumulative impact on Mill Lane of the traffic from 16/00151/AOP and the proposed Moreton Road Phase 3 development (20/00510/APP). The report uses figures supplied to the Council by the developers and shows that figures provided by the Council’s Highways Officer at the Hearing Session were incomplete and could be misleading. The documents also include a transcript of what officers actually said on this issue at the Hearing Session on Day 2
Currently, the Inspector is working towards his final report in which the soundness of the MMO006 allocation will be determined. This is expected towards the end of July. The VALP Examination Documents can be accessed on this page
The s106 Agreement
During the Hearing Sessions, Buckinghamshire Council announced that the draft s106 for 16/00151/AOP had been finalised and was ready for parties to sign. It is suspected that the Council believed this would ‘force the Inspector’s hand’ as it will contain an agreement for the developer to provide short term funding for a peak hour bus service, something the village does not currently have. The draft was finally published for consultation on the 9th June. Stakeholder Parish and Town councils have begun submitting responses, noting that the new text has taken no account of representations that were made in response to the previous draft in November 2020…and that the draft is littered with typos and mistakes!
The draft s106 document and responses can be accessed on the Council’s planning portal
The local plan hearing session for the Maids Moreton site was scheduled to take place on Thursday 15th April. Such were the volume of matters to be discussed, the Planning Inspector decided to schedule an additional session on the Friday afternoon. In total, the Maids Moreton hearing ran for 8 hours…!
A quick recap…
The Walnut Drive/Foscote Road site (known as MMO006) was allocated in the draft Vale of Aylesbury Local Plan (VALP) as ‘suitable for development’ in 2017. However, the allocation has yet to be deemed ‘sound’ by the Planning Inspector and the VALP has not been signed off. Despite this, David Wilson Homes have submitted a planning application to build 170 homes on the site
As detailed in Maids Moreton: Beyond The Boundary, the planning application was considered in November 2020 by Buckinghamshire Council’s Strategic Sites Committee (SSC). The SSC voted – narrowly – to allow the scheme to go ahead subject to the signing of an s106 agreement. This was after an intervention from Susan Kitchen, a senior planning officer at the Council, who told the Committee that MMO006 is a key allocation in the VALP, “…with no question of its soundness raised by the Planning Inspector”.
However, Mrs Kitchen’s claim of, “…no issues of soundness” was subsequently brought into question following an investigation by David Elvin QC. In February 2021, Mr Elvin told the Council that the planning application would need to go back to the SSC once further VALP Hearing Sessions had taken place
What happened next…?
The VALP hearings took place in April 2021, with the session relating to Maids Moreton taking place over two days (15th and 16th April).
Who was there…?
The Inspector invited members of both Maids Moreton and Foscote Parish Council to attend, along with a representative of Maids Moreton & Foscote Action Group (MMFAG) and several local residents. Also attending were representatives from the developer, David Wilson Homes, and senior Council officers from the Planning and Highways departments
How did it go…?
The Maids Moreton and Foscote team were given an opportunity to question at length the inclusion of the site in the local plan and outlined a number of issues which they felt showed the allocation to be ‘unsound’. Amongst these are:
- The lack of evidence for Maids Moreton’s designation as a ‘medium village’
- The lack of evidence for the change in the site’s status from ‘not suitable for development’ to ‘suitable for development’
- The lack of evidence that a satisfactory Ecological Assessment had taken place
- The lack of evidence that an assessment of the impact on Maids Moreton’s heritage assets had taken place
- The lack of evidence that this car-dependent site would be ‘sustainable’
- The lack of evidence to show the site would not have a severe impact on the local highway network
It was argued by our village’s team that, without satisfactory evidence for the above, the allocation of the site in the VALP should not be considered ‘sound’
On the second day of the hearing, Suzanne Ornsby QC (acting for the Council) was invited to co-chair, fielding questions to Council officers present. Much of the Council’s response focused on matters relating to transport and sustainability (points 5 and 6). However, this served only to highlight a number of serious inconsistencies and contradictions in the Council’s position. At one point, their Highways officer admitted that he had given the Inspector incorrect information and also that certain traffic impacts had not been correctly modelled.
Significantly, the Council chose not to directly address any of the earlier points (1 to 4). Instead, they announced that the s106 agreement between the developer and the Council had been completed and was ready to be signed, in an apparent attempt to ‘bounce’ the Inspector into a quick decision.
Sound or unsound…?
So, after two days of debate, is the site ‘sound’ or ‘unsound’? One further question asked of the Inspector by our team was this, “When is the ‘soundness’ determined?”
The Inspector was quite clear on this. This decision is his alone and until his report is published, the ‘soundness’ or otherwise of MMO006 is, in his words, “…not proven”.
It is quite clear that the Council will be taking a risk if they attempt to determine the planning application and sign the s106 document before the Inspector has made his decision