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.