South Bucks District Councillors voted in favour of taking the Chiltern and South Bucks Local Plan to a public consultation.
The controversial plan, which proposes a new development on green belt land around Beaconsfield, was debated in front of a packed chamber at Capswood, with campaigners from the Beaconsfield Society bringing placards and creating a visible protest before the meeting began.
Speaking ahead of the meeting, Beaconsfield Society Chair Alison Wheelhouse criticised the plan, saying: “The plan is so damaging to Beaconsfield and beyond. We are not against building itself, for example we have always welcomed the Wilton Park development.
“We think that redevelopment of previously developed land when done in a good way can be a good thing. We’re not against development, we just want to see it done properly.”
At the start of the meeting, the planning officer gave a presentation on the local plan. Firstly, the officer highlighted the need for the plan, saying that the council have an expectation and a duty to keep the plan up to date, which it was claimed they no longer are. The planning officer went on to warn that not adopting the local plan would increase the risk of government intervention and ‘ad-hoc policy’.
In summary, the planning officer said: “this local plan is positively prepared to meet the needs of the communities of Chiltern and South Bucks both now, and in he future. There are always difficult choices to be made when preparing a Local Plan, but the Councils have a duty to prepare a plan and do so in the best interest of its residents and businesses.
“The plan therefore proposes a balanced development strategy, prepared in conjunction with other Bucks authorities. The Plan proposes limited Green Belt releases and high environmental protection.
“Where development is proposed it will be expected to be to an exemplary standard.”
Councillors then got a chance to propose questions to the planning officer and other councillors. Beaconsfield West Councillor Philip Bastiman said: “The plan needs more future proofing. In less than 12 months’ time we are going to have a new authority, which I believe represents a chance to consider what the future need will be for Buckinghamshire.
“I feel that we have an obligation to minimise the amount of Green Belt being removed. Right now, I think our plan looks forward 12 months. This plan is supposed to be going for 20 years. If we do need to release Green Belt, it should be for an exceptional reason. In my view, we should have a much higher percentage of affordable housing in this plan.”
Councillor Patrick Hogan said: “Passing the draft plan opens it up for further public representations assessed independently to create a sound and positive framework for meeting our local needs.
“This fresh Plan has supporting policies to ensure quality of build and natural environment and homes for life of the size and type our communities’ demographics and future generations need.
“No longer just restrictive, lowest common denominator policy that encourages poor design and putting unnecessary restrictions for residents who otherwise meet the criteria of good quality and appropriate homes.”
At the end of the meeting, councillors voted in favour of taking the Local Plan to the next stage, a public consultation.