Village Green Status
Following the success that BNG had in being one of the prominent local voices of opposition that saw the previous Local Plan withdrawn in which the Council had proposed development of the fields around Lye Green for 900 houses, BNG were also briefly successful in getting the land listed as an Asset of Community Value too before that status was cynically withdrawn by the former Council.
Although the Local Plan was withdrawn, the new Buckinghamshire Council are now in the early stages of preparing their next Local Plan and BNG have continued to monitor events and to take action to prevent the land being allocated in any new Local Plan.
One important action that has been taken in late October 2020 was that BNG made applications to the Council for the land to be listed as a Town or Village Green (TVG). BNG were unable to do this previously for legal reasons until the former Local Plan had been withdrawn.
The statutory test for a Village Green status is to demonstrate that “a significant number of local people have used the land for lawful sports and pastimes over the last 20 years”. It is unlawful to interfere or develop a Village Green. This status if granted, will therefore preserve the land and keep it available for the customary public enjoyment that it has provided to the local community. BNG have evidence of between 280-400 people use the land every day for a variety of recreational activities including dog walking, jogging, cycling, walking with friends and family, children playing, picking blackberries etc. BNG now have evidence from 59 different people all of whom have lived nearby for more than 20 years (in fact the average time living locally is over 39 years) confirming the public uses described herein.
This is VERY important because Village Green status would effectively sterilise the land from all future development as it is unlawful to interfere with or drive vehicles upon a Village Green and is therefore considerably more powerful that the ACV status BNG were previously seeking and most importantly will protect the local wildlife and environment from the development threat that has prevailed for many years.
Such Village Green applications are notoriously slow and take time but BNG’s application has recently been formally recognised and BNG have finally been told by the Council that it is their intention to convene a Public Inquiry into BNG’s Village Green applications later in 2022. This Inquiry will be convened by a third-party expert barrister experienced in Village Green matters and BNG intend to be represented by their own retained barrister as it will be necessary for BNG to present our evidence and submit to cross examination by the objectors, who unsurprisingly are the two landowners.
It is already apparent from the landowner objections that were it not for BNG making the aforementioned Village Green application, that the Council would probably already be considering a planning application for several hundred homes on one of the fields that Countryside Plc appear anxious to submit as they have an option over part of the Mash land.
Our barrister, Mathew Dale-Harris of Landmark Chambers, has recently advised BNG that he feels we have “a very good chance of success” with their Village Green application and BNG are therefore now making preparations for this public inquiry. As yet, we do not have a date for the Inquiry and the Council have advised us that there may be some delay as there are a couple of other matters ahead of us and they also need to identify and instruct a suitably qualified expert barrister to convene this non-statutory public inquiry.
BNG anticipate it may be several months before we know when the inquiry will take place, but BNG are choosing to use this time to prepare and most importantly, to raise funds to cover the costs of the legal representation that we feel we must incur to give this application the very best possibility of success.
Therefore please consider making a donation to BNG for what we hope will be our last initiative in this 7 year battle.
As always cheques are welcome or BACS contributions can be made via our BNG website but we have also established a Just Giving page where credit card donations can also be accepted. Unfortunately, our previous ability to use CrowdJustice for crowdfunding has been subject to some revised regulatorily changes that have caused BNG to move to JustGiving. The JustGiving link for BNG is www.justgiving.com/crowdfunding/bngvillagegreen?utm_term=wqdGWKR74%20%20.
BNG hope this important development can be shared with friends and family via social media and we ask you to consider making a donation to Brown Not Green as we hope the Village Green application gives the community the prospect of some finality in this long running matter.
In our last posting we discussed the Buckinghamshire County Council Planning Survey which we hope many of you were able to complete with the guidance thoughtfully put together by the BNG Chairman. The results of this survey along with other inputs will go towards the creation of a Countywide Draft Local Plan.
Closer to home, Chesham Town Council have chosen to go down the route of the Chesham Neighbourhood Plan (CNP). Once adopted, the CNP will work in parallel with any future Local Plan prepared by Buckinghamshire Council and provide a structure for deciding future planning applications in Chesham. Ah yes, one might say, another layer of bureaucracy but if the end product is to give the residents of Chesham more say on what happens in and around Chesham then it will have served its purpose.
In the past, the BNG Team has had its share of frustration trying to work with our County Councillors but in Cllr Nick Southworth, Chair of the Town Council’s Planning Committee, who also happens to be a County Councillor we have found a genuine ally. Nick is one of the key drivers of the CNP and BNG are delighted that Nick is out there "batting for us" both at a Town level and County level. He's one of the good guys. This is what Nick has to say:
“Chesham a great place to live and full of potential, but it is a town that has been historically poorly served in planning terms. The Chesham Neighbourhood Plan consultation opens the debate on our future directly to residents, with the aim of putting together a planning document that will give us real control over the next chapter of our town’s development. I am delighted that we are able to start engaging with residents from the very start on this vision and I encourage all residents to find the time to feed back to us.”
As the CNP ball starts rolling you can have your say by completing a five minute survey on the Chesham Town Council website. If you do not get involved you will not really have any right to complain about what then happens in Chesham so I would urge you all to play your part.
Read about and complete Chesham Neighbourhood Plan Survey here
The BNG Team
Important Message from our Chairman
Dear BNG Supporter
During the period of over six years that I have been involved with Brown Not Green, Christmas has habitually become a time when some announcement from the Council appears at a most inconvenient time for the community to respond! I have just noticed a few developments on the Buckinghamshire Council website and whilst thankfully these are not as time critical as some of the earlier responses we had to make over previous festive seasons, I felt I should bring them to everyone’s attention.
First, the Council has recently opened a survey questionnaire for everyone across the county to participate in, ostensibly to gather some general feedback that will hopefully set the general direction of travel for the new Local Plan. The Council have announced the new Local Plan must be in place by April 2025. Accordingly this Questionnaire/Survey will be a first part of the “evidence base” supporting their new Plan.
The survey can be found at -
I strongly recommend that you invest ten minutes completing this survey.
However, PLEASE SEE ATTACHED UPDATE NOTE as I do have a couple of concerns about this exercise and so the attached note has been prepared to highlight a few questions in the Survey which could be “leading” or which if answered casually, may conflict with later responses. I think it is vital that as many of our supporters as possible respond to this survey, but we all need to beware of some of the aforementioned inconsistencies which might otherwise be used in evidence to support an otherwise unacceptable policy in later years. The attached Update Notes should explain further what I think the areas are to watch out for. I should add that several questions offer you to rate options in your order of preference with one answer being “other” which opens a text box for you to explain. Rather than being lead to some of the answers, you may wish to select “other” and then highlight the work of Chesham Renaissance / Masterplan by emphasising that you may wish to see a more holistic regeneration of Chesham in particular such as that being advanced by Chesham Renaissance that revitalises degraded areas by creating a sustainable mix of uses in the centre of town with improved car parking and potentially more genuinely affordable homes.
I also noted that the Council have recently adopted their Statement of Community Involvement (SCI) on the 7th December 2021. Many BNG supporters will remember that a draft SCI was published around last Christmas (!) and there was a public consultation conducted shortly thereafter and since then I have been concerned that there has been no further announcement. The draft SCI was indicating that opportunities for community consultation and comment on new local plan documents was being reduced. Although it seems the adopted SCI following the public consultation has toned things down slightly, we are still concerned that many people may not notice some of the councils publications and will only have six weeks to respond when they do come out and with greater reliance apparently been given to internet/online responses from the public. Accordingly BNG strongly recommend that everyone concerned about local planning matters should “register” with Bucks Council for planning policy updates.
You will need to enter your email address at the following URL - https://buckinghamshire.oc2.uk/register/process/0
and you should then get notification of all planning policy consultations once you have responded to a verification email that the council will send to you immediately. (Please note my verification email went directly into my clutter/junk folder so please watch out for that!)
I hope that the attached notes will provide some guidance for residents on what they need to know and do and whilst this thankfully is not a time critical exercise I feel it needs to be highlighted to the community and also some care needs to be given to the responses to the questionnaire / survey.
I am unsure how long the aforementioned survey questionnaire will be open for so I would encourage members and supporters to invest ten minutes completing this survey ASAP and registering their interest for planning policy updates as and when they may have some spare time over the festive period. The Brownfield Call for Sites will be open from 6 December until only 29 December.
If anyone has any queries or needs advice please don’t hesitate to contact me directly but I attach the aforementioned notes which I hope are helpful.
Thanks again to all our BNG supporters and wishing you all a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.
Phillip J Plato - FIoD DipSurv MRICS
Director – Brown Not Green Chesham Ltd
Is Bucks Council's new Statement of Community Involvement (SCI) actually trying to gag the community?
Why this matters?
Specifically, there is now,
WHY IS THIS BEING PROPOSED? - What is the justification for such radical changes?
As if to rub salt into the wounds, the Council chose not inform Brown Not Green Campaign and other local resident groups about the new Statement of Community Involvement Consultation. Looks like they have already adopted it.
This really is a direct attack on our democracy and Council accountability. They almost got away with it but following clever work by some astute members of the BNG Team, we spotted this and were able to put pressure on the Council to extend the Consultation deadline by a couple of weeks before they could push it under the carpet.
Please, we need you all to respond to this Consultation, urgently, as otherwise it will be very difficult to protect the Greenbelt if this goes through.
Simple instructions including a guideline template below.
How to Comment (by Tuesday 6 April 2021):
BNG’s response to this new SCI can be found here. (This may help you to write your own objection, but a suggested template letter/email is can be found by clicking here: Word or PDF
King George V House,
King George V Road,
Thanks again for your continued support.
See also The Chesham Society's and Beaconsfield Society's pages on this issue.
The BNG Team
New Year's BNG Update
As 2021 begins, it seemed appropriate to update all our supporters. Many of you will already be aware of a significant success being achieved in the concluding months of 2020.
The Local Plan that had allocated the Green Belt NE of Chesham for development of up to 900 homes and a gypsy travellers’ site was formally withdrawn from any further public Examination by the Council on 23 October. BNG and others had made numerous written submissions raising concerns about the Plan’s lack of legal compliance under the Duty to Co-operate with neighbouring areas, and the Local Plan Inspectors advised the Council to withdraw the Plan due to this. Although the Plan's withdrawal is a very significant victory, the war is not yet won and BNG’s campaign continues as we want to strengthen the protection of this land should this issue be revisited in the next Local Plan.
BNG therefore had reapplied for Asset of Community Value (ACV) status in September 2020 (namely before the announcement about the Chiltern & South Bucks Local Plan being withdrawn). Supporters will recall we had achieved ACV status in July 2019 only to see that decision shamefully revoked by the Council on most tenuous grounds about a year ago. Sadly, and despite submitting substantially more evidence this time supporting this second ACV nomination, our latest efforts have recently been similarly dismissed again. We are now contemplating a formal complaint to the Local Government Ombudsman as we fail to understand how evidence of between 200 to 300 people per day using the land for informal, recreation could not be meeting the statutory test of improving community well-being.
However, in a further effort to ensure the land at Lye Green does not resurface in the next Local Plan that the new Buckinghamshire Council have announced they are now preparing in the next few years, the withdrawal of this draft Local Plan now removes a legal restriction that had hitherto prevented BNG from seeking registration of the fields around Lye Green as a Town or Village Green (TVG) under provisions in the Commons Act 2006.
Accordingly, BNG submitted comprehensive applications for TVG registration on all the fields around Lye Green within 10 days of the Local Plan being formally withdrawn. The decisions on this are awaited but may take some time.
The test for a Village Green is whether “a significant number of the inhabitants of the locality have indulged as of right in lawful sports and pastimes on the land for a period of at least 20 years;” We have already submitted over 50 Statements from people who have lived nearby for over 20 years representing over 1,700 years of local recollections confirming this point.
Both the TVG and our anticipated referral to the Local Government Ombudsman about the ACV issue will involve BNG maintaining active representations in 2021 all with the aim of preventing this issue resurfacing in the next iteration of the Local Plan.
Thank you again for all your donations & support over the last 5 years and please follow our progress via CrowdJustice or via our website at www.brownnotgreen.com
Happy New Year!
The BNG Team
The Government recently published two White Papers on Planning that may affect all our lives in the future. You can view the White Papers by clicking the links below :
The first White Paper Changes to the Current Planning System got much coverage (and ridicule) in the National Press & Media due to its promotion of an algorithm to calculate housing need in areas. This one size-fits-all approach, if applied as proposed, would see the already challenging housing need assessment in the Chilterns further increase by 232%, yet 88% of this District is designated as Green Belt with 72% also designated as AONB.
You would have thought after the fiasco of the exam results algorithm this Summer, someone in Government might have dressed this up as anything but an Algorithm!
Brown Not Green continue to campaign for a common-sense bottom-up approach to Planning and have pushed back against this Planning Algorithm in the Consultation responses to these White Papers. With thanks to Phillip Plato who has worked tirelessly (and continues to do so with super-human effort) during our protracted campaign for putting in these responses. You can read them here:
Thanks again to all members of the BNG Campaign Group and their supporters for their continued hard work.
The BNG Team
On Tuesday 13th October, BNG noted that Buckinghamshire Council published a Press Release announcing that at the next Council Meeting on 21 October 2020, the Council will approve a proposal to withdraw the draft Chiltern & South Bucks Local Plan.
BNG take no pleasure in seeing over five years of work abandoned at ratepayer expense but BNG have long opposed the draft Local Plan which was deeply flawed and given the independent Inspector’s criticism questioning the legal compliance of the Plan which BNG had itself alerted the Council to as far back as 2016, this is the only practical course of action for the Council. Accordingly, BNG welcome this proposal to finally consign this deeply flawed Local Plan to the rubbish bin.
As the Plan contained proposals to remove significant areas of Green Belt land and to allocate these areas for development, including land to the North-East of Chesham near Lye Green for between 500 and 900 homes plus a gypsy/traveller site, this news represents the removal of that immediate threat. The Council have further announced that it is their intention to now commence work on a new county wide Local Plan which itself may take several years to prepare.
BNG director, Phillip Plato MRICS said “This news is most welcome and represents a significant victory for the Local Community who have understandably been very concerned about these protracted proposals. Whilst the land may still be under threat in any new iteration of the next Local Plan, this campaign is therefore not yet finished and BNG will continue to take all the action it can to protect Green Belt around Chesham. “ He also thanked the many hundreds of local people who have supported BNG and donated money to its legal fundraising efforts.
The good folk at the Campaign for Rural England (Bucks Branch) have sent another letter to the Council reciting earlier claims the Local Plan is fundamentally flawed and should be withdrawn. This comprehensive letter speaks for itself and can be viewed by clicking here.
In the meantime, the Council continues to act very evasively regarding our Asset of Community Value Complaint with repeated broken promises regarding a formal response. This does not put the Council in a good light and will work against them when we take this further.
Thanks again for your support
The BNG Team
Following the outrageous decision by the Council to revoke this status BNG had secured on the land, BNG were unable to raise sufficient funds within the limited time available for a legal challenge under Judicial Review but have since filed a formal complaint to the Council under the Council’s complaints procedure.
This Complaint seeks a reconsideration of the matter and an explanation why the Council acted as they did and in the manner they did. It is notable that there have been subsequent court decisions that support BNG’s views that the ACV status of the land has been removed for inappropriate reasons.
A copy of the Complaint can be seen by clicking here.
Again, at the time of writing a formal response from the Council has not yet been received after over 5 weeks since it was acknowledged.
Thanks again for your support
The BNG Team
July 2020 POST SCRIPT: Despite repeated broken promises, still awaiting a formal response from the Council whose behaviour can now fairly be described as being entirely evasive.
The Local Plan Examination Hearing Sessions commence next week and we will be expecting the Inspector to make several site visits to Lye Green, Chesham and the surrounding area. It is imperative therefore, that we demonstrate the strength of feeling against the Local Plan, specifically the building on the Greenbelt around Chesham.
It is time to get our BNG signs and banners out on display again, as above.
The BNG Team
Members of the Brown Not Green Campaign