Why are we developing a Neighbourhood Plan?
A Neighbourhood Plan gives us the opportunity to influence the developments in the parish over the next 15 years or so. If we get approval it will guide the planning authorities on future applications by developers. It will help to protect us from opportunistic developments until 2033.
How does the plan get approved?
We will submit our plan to AVDC for approval. If they approve it an independent Government Inspector has to approve it. Finally, the plan will be put to the residents on the Electoral Register to vote Yes or No on a simple majority of those who vote.
What happens if the majority vote NO?
In that event we might have a chance for a further attempt to get an approved plan but it is unlikely. In the event of a No majority the protections provided by a Neighbourhood Plan will not apply and developers can continue to apply for new developments with most of the normal protections removed. AVDC will decide how many and where developments in our parish will take place.
How is the Neighbourhood Plan being developed in our parish?
In January this year we held six public meetings to explain the approach. Since then information has been placed on our website. We formed a Steering Group from volunteers to guide the overall issues for the plan. We also set up Village Task Forces to study the particular issues affecting the relevant village and their proposals were shared with parishioners at three public meetings at the beginning of July. Parishioners who attended were asked a series of questions designed to help the development of the plan.
Who else is involved?
We are obliged to share our proposals with key stakeholders such as Bucks CC Highways, English Heritage and other statutory bodies. We also will engage with local businesses, landowners and developers where appropriate.
Who decided how many houses we have to build?
AVDC are in the process of getting their overall local plan approved. In that plan they have laid out the terms required of the towns and villages in the district. A Draft Vale of Aylesbury Plan was published for consultation from 7th July 2016 and residents of the AVDC are invited to submit their views. Consultation on their plan is open until 5th September 2016.
Comments may be submitted online at aylesburyvaledc.gov.uk/valp-draft-plan-consultation-form
Their plan dictates how many houses we have to build. Our Neighbourhood Plan has to meet the requirements of VALP otherwise we will fail the first test of our Neighbourhood Plan. If parishioners wish to object to the number of houses then they must address their issue to AVDC to get the VALP changed.
Can we refuse to comply with VALP?
Yes, but then we will not have a Neighbourhood Plan that can protect us. Your Parish Council decided that getting a Neighbourhood Plan approved is the best course of action for our parish.
What happens if VALP does not get approved?
AVDC tried to get a plan approved in 2014. Their efforts failed the first time. As a result, some of the protections that we have enjoyed for years were removed. If they fail to get approval the Government will tell them what and where to develop and we will have to do what they say.
Who decides where the houses get built?
Firstly, AVDC invites landowners to offer their land for development. This is submitted to scrutiny by the planners in AVDC. The land offered appears in the VALP under the heading of Housing and Economic Land Availability Assessment(HELAA). The planners make a preliminary assessment of suitability taking into account the location in relation to the existing built areas in the villages and access etc. The current land and assessments for our parish are in the Neighbourhood Plan Consultation Document on the parish website and on AVDC's website.
Our local Village Task Forces then look at this and develop proposals taking into account local knowledge and previous information on local needs. These proposals were shared with parishioners at the recent 'Open House' consultations.
Why don't we put the new houses on sites such as the old RAF site or adjacent to the houses on the Tring Road?
Firstly, the RAF site is in an AONB. It was probably there before AONB and Green Belt were introduced. Also there are no services there and the assessment for new houses is based on key sustainability criteria contained in VALP.
One key factor in planning is a requirement that new developments are contiguous with existing housing to prevent sprawl. This applies to any existing houses outside the existing main village settlements.
Over the years we have seen a number of houses built as a result of conversion or 'infill' Why aren't the teams making an allowance for these extras?
Any 'infill' is counted as extra by AVDC and cannot be included in our target housing numbers. This is part of the rules in VALP. We are trying to contain this by defining a policy of an upper limit on infills. We are suggesting that any more than 5 on one site will be recognised in our targets.
You've said we get the opportunity to influence factors other than the number of houses. What are these other factors?
Please read carefully through the policies we are proposing as part of our plan. These are in the Open House Consultation document on the website.
Can we stop development on specific locations such as allotments, green spaces etc?
We have asked parishioners to identify those parts of our parish that they feel need protection. This cannot include land submitted for development. We will then submit the areas we feel can justify protection.
How will facilities such as the Surgery and the school cope with the extra numbers?
We are suggesting in our plan that we reserve some land for growth adjacent to the existing facilities. .We have had a preliminary discussion with the head of Edlesborough School and further work needs to be done to see what the growth will mean to the facilities. However, we cannot compel the Surgery nor the Education Authority to make provisions.
Why can't Dagnall and Northall take some of the houses from Edlesborough?
Apart from the fact that Dagnall is Green Belt it and Northall have been categorised in VALP as small villages with few facilities and are not deemed as sustainable as Edlesborough. Allocating more houses in Northall and Dagnall than required by VALP would not reduce the 169 allocation for Edlesborough. Each individual settlement is considered separately, not the Parish as a whole.
We have to build 169 houses. How many do we need to build on top of what has been built or approved already?
The house numbers needed are calculated from early 2013 when the original 20-year cycle began. With the houses identified in Cow Lane plus the McCann site opposite the school, and a few smaller sites we had identified enough housing to meet the original suggestion of 100 to 120 houses. However, the Draft VALP reclassified the villages and Edlesborough is in the 'large' category. As a consequence of the facilities we have we were allocated more housing when the 'final' numbers were put into the Draft VALP. We need to find space for an additional 41 houses to meet the minimum requirements of VALP as it currently stands. Hence the proposal to use just part of the two sites to minimise the effect on the area.
Why have we suggested partial development of site EDL001 when the HELAA identified it as unsuitable?
The Task Group considered that much of the important landscape contribution provided by the site could possibly be preserved with just partial development. Infilling the edge of the site adjacent to existing development, but retaining a large open space adjacent to Ford Lane would preserve the soft edge of the village in that location.
Having two smaller developments of approximately 20 houses each would reduce the impact on Slicketts Lane of locating all the remaining 41 houses on the only remaining HELAA recommended site (EDL021).
How did McCann Homes manage to obtain planning permission for site EDL009 when the HELAA identified it as unsuitable?
As already mentioned, the HELAA is a preliminary assessment of suitability and is only an indication of whether or not planning approval would or would not be granted. In the case of the McCann site, they were able to overcome AVDC's initial objections on landscape grounds by retaining the large open space in the middle of the site to preserve a large part of the AAL vista. That is why infilling that open space as suggested by some people would not be acceptable to AVDC.
Can we challenge the VALP housing allocation by not supporting the Neighbourhood Plan?
No. If we wish to challenge the VALP allocation or the methodology used, that can only be done through the VALP public consultation process. AVDC and the Government Inspector will reject the Neighbourhood Plan if it conflicts with VALP, so we must include the 169 houses as a minimum. If the public then reject the Plan at the referendum stage, we simply won't have a Plan and as already explained, AVDC will then decide how many and where developments in our parish will take place.
Why doesn't the Neighbourhood Plan seek to improve the existing infrastructure, facilities and amenities in the villages in the same way that the Parish Plan did?
A Neighbourhood Plan is not the same thing as a parish plan. A parish plan sets out what the local community would like to see delivered in the future and possible ways of achieving those aims, but it has no legal standing in planning law. Once adopted a Neighbourhood Plan actually becomes part of planning law, but as such it can only relate to issues that involve planning consent.
If a development could deliver infrastructure or amenities specific to that particular development which could be conditioned as part of the approval, then that is relevant to the Neighbourhood Plan. An example of that could be the inclusion of a public open space within the development. However, general improvements to services and infrastructure are the responsibility of public bodies or the utility companies, and issues such as roads, schools, medical facilities, sewerage, flood control etc. and are controlled by them and not by the planning authorities. For example the education authority has a statutory responsibility to provide the necessary schools and will require a developer to make a financial contribution towards that provision, but it is the education authority that decides how that contribution will be spent and in all probability, it won't be spent in the immediate locality of the development.
The highway authority can require the access to a development and the thoroughfares within it to meet certain standards, but it can't usually demand general improvements to the local highway network as part of an individual planning consent.
There are proposals being made to put all of the responsibilities into a single authority but it will take years, if ever, to achieve and AVDC has to have VALP approved before the end of next year.