Having raised a phenomenal amount of money towards the costs of his Judicial Review (over £20k via JustGiving and more offline), Pat Hardcastle has launched a ‘£20 campaign’ for the final leg of fundraising.
Huge thanks to everyone who has supported me so far; it is very motivating to have such wide support from the community and more widely. There is still further to go, so please do keep up the momentum. I am on the final leg of my fundraising and need just £20 from 500 people to meet my target. To this end, I am launching my ‘£20 Campaign’ and on Saturday 11 June, I shall have a stall in the Buckingham market, talking to people about donating £20 to support the campaign. Do come along and any support you can give will be most welcome.”
PATS’S JUST GIVING PAGE UPDATE, 10th June 2022
The market stall was visited by dozens of Saturday morning shoppers and also by Greg Smith MP, plus town and county councillors including Howard Mordue, Anthony Ralph, Robin Stuchbury and Warren Whyte. After the event, Greg Smith posted a message on Facebook and Twitter urging followers to donate.
It has been said that the 170 home development will increase the village population by at least 50% and possibly up to 60%. Where does that figure come from? And what else will change in the village?
For village residents, the exact impact of the 170 homes site is difficult to forecast because much of the detail will be decided by what are known as ‘reserved matters’. However, it is possible to understand the extent of the impact from some of the published documentation contained on the Public Access portal.
Increase in population
The ‘at least 50%’ figure is an estimate. Nobody knows how many people will live on the new development and it is not known at this stage what proportion of the homes will be 5-bedroom, although the original design statement shows the majority as being 4 or 5-bed. The planning statement simply says it will be a mixture of 2 – 5 bed homes ‘not exceeding 2.5 storeys in height’ and, “The final size, type and tenure mix of the entire site to be determined through discussions with the Council at Reserved Matters stage”.
The 50 – 60% estimate is based on ONS (Office for National Statistics) data. Their Families and Households in the UK 2020 dataset shows that the average UK household size is 2.4 people, which indicates a population increase of 408. According to the UK Census 2011, the current population of the Parish of Maids Moreton is 847. Therefore, based on the 2.4 figure, the population increase would be from 847 to 1255 residents. The number of houses (currently 351 according to the 2011 Census) would increase to 521. Both figures point to the ‘at least 50%’ figure being accurate. If the proportion of homes with more than 2 bedrooms is increased, the % population increase will be greater still
Similar to the proposed mix of housing, exact details on the extent of changes to the landscape of the site are currently unknown. For instance, the number of trees to be removed is yet to be agreed. The planning statement simply says that, “Overall, every effort will be made to retain as much of the existing trees and hedgerow coverage as possible however the precise details would be subject to a future reserved matters application”.
The public footpath that goes across the site will be ‘upgraded’ to improve access to the site but few details are given. The Council rights of way officer has specified that the 163 metre section between Main Street and the site (i.e. Rocky’s Walk) should be upgraded to 3 metre wide and ‘re-surfaced to footway specification’ for walking and cycling. This is to be a bitumen surface and the route should be ‘lit’ i.e. it will have street lamps.
Another change that is difficult to quantify will be the quality of views across the site, which is currently open fields, dropping away to Foxcote Reservoir. As the developer has stated that the new homes will be ‘up to 2.5 storeys’, it can be assumed they will be similar to the very tall houses seen on the recent Moreton Road developments overlooking the Rugby Club. It is clear that anyone living along the site’s boundary with The Pightle, Manor Park and Foscote Road will lose these open views and be overlooked by taller buildings. On this matter, the Landscape and Visual Impact Assessment (LVIA) simply concludes that, “Homes to the south of the site and the footpath which crosses the site would experience long term significant negative visual effects’
An increase in population means an increase in the number of vehicle movements. According to the UK Census 2011, around 80% of work journeys by MM parish residents who are in work are via car – either as driver (73%) or passenger (6%). Bus journeys account for 1% of journeys.
The developer, David Wilson Homes, has estimated that the number of vehicle journeys generated by the development in the AM and PM peaks will be 100 (AM – 8am to 9am) and 77 (PM 4pm to 5pm). Whether or not these estimates are accurate is an open question but, nevertheless, they are the figures Buckinghamshire Council have accepted for the purposes of traffic modelling and predicting the impact on village roads.
In the council planning officer’s own words (Feb 2019), “It is acknowledged that additional traffic would be created and that this would be substantial”. The Officer’s Report of November 2020 states that, “The application is considered to be acceptable on highway grounds subject to a number of mitigation works to be secured as part of a S106 and subject to conditions”
Highways mitigation works
The 170 homes development will have two access points, one at the top of Walnut Drive and one along Foscote Road, next to the kissing gate entrance to the public footpath. Confirmed highways mitigation works include:
A mini roundabout at the Walnut Drive/Main Street junction, including warning signs on both approaches. The council says this will have a ‘minor negative effect on the significance of the heritage assets’. The scheme was described by a local Councillor as ‘the ‘urbanisation’ of the conservation area’.
A Traffic Regulation Order (TRO) restricting parking along Main Street and Walnut Drive. These will be enforced by double yellow lines at the approaches to the roundabout. This is despite many resident’s concerns about the reduction in availability of on street parking in the area, harming both residents and local businesses. The council say a parking survey was carried out ‘using approved methodology’ but the survey did not include evening peak times when the pub and village hall were in use.
Additional signage and road markings on the A422 in the vicinity of the Mill Lane junction
Plans to add a left turn filter lane at the Mill Lane/A422 junction if required
Traffic calming and re-profiling of the entrance to Mill Lane, reducing the width of the carriageway
Extended pedestrian area outside St. Edmunds church to close off the second ‘fork’
Gateway feature and additional road markings and signage at the entrance to Mill Lane
2 metre wide footway from Manor Park along Foscote Road to the site entrance
Part funding for an hourly peak time bus service to Buckingham (for a maximum of 5 years only)
A ‘Monitor and Manage’ strategy, using ANPR (number plate recognition) cameras to monitor vehicle usage along Mill Lane and Foscote Road. Should traffic conditions deteriorate, further highways mitigations will be necessary. The proposed ‘further mitigations’ along Foscote Road are not specified despite both Parish Councils requesting clarification
At the Planning Committee meeting in November 2020, Councillor Clare commented that, “…just taking highways as an issue: to fit this estate on to Maids Moreton requires a root and branch highways change through the whole village that you can’t return from. It’s incredibly marginal at every level. Squeezing that mini roundabout in only just provides enough vision splay to make it technically feasible.
And having to use this casual term of ‘Monitor and Review’ because we don’t have the data to say it is going to work. The only way that this could proceed is by taking a massive gamble, changing what is a historic village with a Conservation Area and entirely changing all the highways aspects of it to build on an estate – and then monitor and review it and only then will we know if we’ve made the right decision.
To not only add up to 60 per cent to a population but to absolutely change a village on a gamble that we then have to monitor and review to work out (a) how bad the situation is and (b) what other additions we will need to make it viable…just in terms of what are we going to do to a village that has been in existence for hundreds of years on a gamble is totally unacceptable”.
The Committee proposal to approve the planning application was tied 50:50. However, approval was gained via the Chairman’s single casting vote.
Following Buckinghamshire Council’s decision to approve the 170 homes planning application in Maids Moreton, longstanding village resident Patrick Hardcastle has announced that he will be seeking a Judicial Review of the decision.
Pat is well-placed professionally to be taking this action, having served first as a forestry officer in Malawi, followed by 10 years’ teaching at Oxford and Aberdeen Universities and then 30 years advising aid agencies on sustainable development. In a long and distinguished career, Pat’s focus has always been on the social and environmental needs of communities, and promoting development that is both sustainable and responsive to the needs of those communities.
Speaking at two village meetings over the weekend, Pat contrasts his approach with the planning system in the UK, which he describes as:
“Purely target driven. Building X number of houses without considering what types of houses are needed or where they should be built to minimise the impact”.
Pat is highly critical of the failure of developers in the UK to consult with the communities where they propose to build – and a planning system which allows that to happen. He describes the public exhibition held by David Wilson Homes (DWH) at the Rugby Club in November 2015 as:
“Nothing more than a tick box exercise”.
Pat goes on to say that:
“Had there been real consultation, the village could have agreed to 60 or 70 houses that were a mix of genuinely affordable, social and for downsizing or sheltered living. But DWH had no interest in that approach. DWH want maximum profit“
Pat is also critical of the way Buckinghamshire Council planners seem to sign off developers’ plans without ensuring there is compliance with the aims of the NPPF (National Planning Policy Framework) or even their own rules and procedures. He cites the lack of scrutiny and the many contradictions, omissions and irregularities in the 170 homes application, adding:
“It seems the Council is only concerned with meeting its housing numbers target“
He is realistic about what can be changed.
“We can’t change the planning system but we can at least draw attention to what is happening – the Council’s failure to hold developers to account, The way they have ridden roughshod over our interests. The destruction of an historic village and the distinct community that thrives here. We are not NIMBY folk; we just want to have our views heard and properly valued”.
To raise the necessary funding for the legal action, Pat has launched a crowd funding drive via JustGiving. Pat recognises that it will be an enormous challenge to raise the required sum but believes if the village pulls together, the target can be reached.
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 action
MAIDS 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. @GarethWatBucks
CLLR. 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:
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.”