As this campaign drags into its third year, we are are asking all our supporters to undertake another letter writing campaign following our Barrister’s advice to keep the pressure up on the Council. As such we need to mobilise as many supporters as possible to write now to:
A sample letter for members / supporters to use or adapt as they see fit provided the final paragraph is included.
Click here for: Sample Letter
Check out our How to Lobby Page for more information.
The more people who write, the greater the pressure on the Council to drop this proposal so we urge you to encourage your friends, family and other supporters to write letters. It will help make a difference.
Thanks again for your continuous support.
The BNG Team
Since our last newsletter, Chiltern and South Bucks District Councils have issued a “Call for Sites” asking local people to identify sites within both districts that may have the potential for development over the Local Plan period, up to 2036.
This 'Call for Sites' exercise will run from 3 December 2018 to 14 January 2019 and will be used to update the Council's Strategic Housing and Economic Land Availability Assessment (SHLAA), which will be part of the evidence base for the new Local Plan.
From the Council email:
We would therefore invite landowners, agents or potential developers to put forward sites for consideration which might have potential for contributing towards Chiltern and South Bucks’ future needs for housing, specialist housing such as for older people .... employment uses, town centre uses, community facilities, mixed use developments, sport and recreation, no specific use, or other development uses where there is considered to be a specific or general need or opportunity over the period to 2036.
The Councils' Call for Sites web page can be found here.
BNG are hopeful that as well as bringing their SHLAA up-to-date that perhaps the Council have realised that they may have jumped the gun in considering Green Belt sites for housing development before fully exploring all other options first.
The BNG Team are aware of Brownfield sites and contaminated sites within the Greenbelt that were not considered by the Council when they originally embarked on the Draft Local Plan (2014-2016). Examples are a seven acre site that could easily accommodate dozens of dwellings that has had planning refused. Another current site laboriously held up in the delayed planning process but available now could accommodate 90-plus dwellings. Neither site would impact valued Greenbelt. The BNG Team believe there are other potential sites within the two districts that have not yet been considered or have been overlooked by the Council that could contribute to the Districts’ housing need.
If you, or anyone you know, are aware of any such sites please send them through to us here at BNG with a map clearly identifying the boundary. You do not need to be the landowner but ideally should provide information and the views of the landowner.
Points to note:
If you are the landowner, you should complete the Site Nomination Form and send this directly to the Council but also informing BNG; otherwise send your site nominations through to us.
It is worth being fairly open-minded about what land can be used for. For example, land that may be useful for industry but not residential should be considered. By taking Industry out of Chesham, we free up space for residential in the town centre. We should consider all unused sites in South Bucks & Chiltern Districts. It is better to put sites forward and have them refused than not put sites forward at all.
As The Brown Not Green Campaign enters into its third year of existence, the BNG Team, would like to thank everyone for their continued support and wish everyone a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.
The BNG Team
It has been almost a full four months since you last heard from Brown Not Green and although the BNG Campaign team have been busy it appears that Chiltern & South Bucks District Councils have made no progress with the Draft Local Plan, as there have been no further changes to the Council Local Plan website since March.
BNG have not been able to receive a definitive answer from any Council representatives as to the reasons for or the length of the delay but we will keep on asking as the uncertainty and blight that is being forced on those that live in the vicinity of Lye Green is still causing much distress.
It had been thought that with the threat of Chiltern and District Councils being absorbed into one new unitary authority for the whole of Bucks from April 2020 that the district Planning Departments had just given up. Following the formal announcement by the Secretary of State that a unitary authority would be the way forward for Bucks, it is now even more important that Chiltern & South Bucks expedite a Local Plan as this together with the already agreed Plans in Aylesbury & Wycombe will collectively form the Plan for the new Unitary Authority for Buckinghamshire.
From the Bucks County Council website there is a link to a separate site called Future Bucks which has been set up to outline what to expect within the new unitary authority. There is an FAQ page. There are two pertinent questions and answers on this page:
1. Would a single unitary invalidate the districts’ area plans?
No, although it may be preferable to join them together over time.
2. What will happen to our Local Plan; will this be a wasted effort with a new unitary council? Will we have to engage in the process again unnecessarily?
The three local plans will be newly adopted at the launch of a new council and will therefore not change for the immediate future. Once the plans come up for review in 2022/2023 the new council could choose to develop a single local development and infrastructure plan for Buckinghamshire
We have sought confirmation of all this from our MP which is awaited. It should be business as usual but it isn’t as we still await our new Local Plan. It is very important to realise that the new Unitary Proposal does not mean the threat to our Green Belt and the wider town has now gone away. It is even more important that we work with the Chiltern Planning Department to put the right solutions forward to protect Chesham’s Green Belt and Environment as we move into the new regime.
In the meantime the BNG team has had a Consultation with our Barrister having presented her with a comprehensive legal brief a couple of months ago. The Barrister feels we have a strong case and has given us good advice on where we need to add solid evidence of important material planning considerations we have already raised with the Council. BNG will shortly be retaining Expert Consultants with a view to putting together professional opinions that will provide supporting evidence rebuttable to the Council’s flawed plans to take the fields around Lye Green out of the Green Belt.
Before BNG embarks on paying for any Consultants we are first reaching out to all our supporters to see if we have any professional experts locally in any of the following areas:
If you, or anyone you know, is a qualified expert or professional in any of these fields above and have the time to help the BNG Campaign, we would very much like to hear from you. Any help you can offer will be very much appreciated. Please contact us through the BNG website.
As stated earlier, this delay from the Council is helping no-one and just brings unnecessary uncertainty into local residents’ lives. Before we all lose heart it is worth repeating a point made in our last newsletter, the new National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF2) published earlier this year affords greater protection to our Green Belt than when all of this started a few years ago. The Council is no nearer demonstrating any exceptional circumstances required to modify our Green Belt boundaries and so as far as the BNG Campaign goes, we are in good shape.
Thanks again for your continued support.
The BNG Team.
As expected, the new revised National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) was published this week as Parliament broke for the summer recess. The full document can be found here on the Govt website.
No doubt there will be further commentary and opinion pieces on this over the coming weeks.
So far the following commentary from The Planner Magazine seems an appropriate summary. We have highlighted in red the important points for BNG:
The much-anticipated revised National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) has finally been published with an increased emphasis on high-quality design - but there are concerns the new framework will put planners under 'significant pressure'.
Housing secretary James Brokenshire said the latest framework will make it easier for planning authorities to challenge poor quality and unattractive development. In particular, it stresses that councils “have the confidence and tools” to refuse applications when the development does not prioritise design quality or complement its surroundings.
The new framework also aims to give communities a greater say in the design of developments. Councils are encouraged to make use of “innovative visual tools” to promote better design and quality and allow residents to see schemes before they are built.
Adopted neighbourhood plans should “demonstrate clear local leadership in design quality, with the framework allowing groups seeking such plans to truly reflect the community’s expectations on how new development will visually contribute to their area”.
Councils will have to apply design policies “in the most appropriate way in their area, recognising that they are well placed to know their area’s unique character and setting”.
“I am clear that quantity must never compromise the quality of what is built, and this is reflected in the new rules,” said Brokenshire.
Local authorities are urged to “exhaust all other reasonable options for development” before considering altering a green belt boundary. It stresses that “considerable evidence” would be needed to alter any such boundary. The framework confirms the housing need methodology set out last year for calculating housing need across different forms and tenures based on a wide range of factors including affordability.
From November 2018 councils will have a Housing Delivery Test focused on driving up the numbers of homes delivered in their area, rather than how many are planned for. This will penalise councils that under-deliver over three years. The frameworks also aims to provide further protection for biodiversity by aligning the planning system more closely with Defra’s 25-year environment plan. It stresses greater importance on air quality when deciding applications and offers more protection for ancient woodland and trees. The revised document replaces the previous NPPF published in March 2012.
The full NPPF document can be accessed here.
The full Planner Magazine article and subsequent comment can be found here
It would appear that the revised NPPF makes it more difficult for councils to change Greenbelt boundaries than previously which is good news but concerns have also been aired around the new “housing delivery test” notably in this article by Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE).
All that said, we should now see the wheels start turning again in the BNG campaign and, indeed, in the Council’s Planning Processes although at the time of writing the Chiltern District Council’s planning website shows no further updates or mention of the revised NPPF and, indeed, now appears out of date.
Watch this space.
This time, Green Belt & AONB to the North-West of Chesham is under threat of development
BNG have just heard that another new strip of Green Belt and Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty is under threat of development. This is in addition to the ongoing threat of 900 homes on the Green Belt to the North-East of Chesham in Lye Green.
The new application site is located to the North-West of Chesham. More precisely, to the South-West of Chess Vale Bowling Club on Asheridge Road, bordering on Darvell Drive.
Worryingly, the Developer's Planning Statement uses as justification for building on this Green Belt site the fact that the Council is considering removing Green Belt status from the Lye Green Site to build 900 homes.
(Ref: Pg 29 Para 8.34). Without wishing to sound alarmist regarding this justification, the proposal for the 900 homes on the Lye Green site may become the thin edge of the wedge for the rest of the Green Belt and AONB around Chesham which is already one of the largest settlements within Chiltern District. Certainly the impression given is that it can do little harm to cram more houses into the already overburdened Chesham area.
Despite being a narrow road, over the previous two decades, Asheridge Road has had more than its fair share of new houses causing traffic and parking challenges for the local residents. This development will just add to this pressure build-up despite the Developer's naive claims of sustainable transport into Chesham.
The Planning Application and associated Documents can be found here on the Chiltern District Council Planning Portal. The Application Reference No is
The Consultation closes on Tuesday 5th June (probably 5pm).
We need to send a strong message to the Council that it is not open season on the Green Belt around Chesham. It is no more right to build 99 homes on this Asheridge plot as it is to build 900 homes up at Lye Green. If you have the time over the next ten days to put in a quick objection, this will help get this message across. In your objection, only refer to the Asheridge site so as not to muddy the water.
A brief objection is better than no objection at all. The most painless way to object is to register on the Planning Portal and fill in the online Comments form. It really is quick & easy and it will even remember your details for next time you wish to object to any planning applications! My objection took only fifteen minutes to complete.
As Chesham residents, we all have a duty to protect the Green Belt all the way around Chesham not just our immediate neighbourhoods. Developers and other organisations are beginning to swarm around this precious land to meet their own aims with scant regard to the protection of the Green Belt.
We hope you can find the time to submit your objection. Please also share this with your friends, family and colleagues.
Thanks again for all your support.
The BNG Team
Congratulations to all our supporters as we surpassed our fundraising target of £20,000 in April. We are still leaving all the fundraising channels open and will continue to request funds so that we can exceed the original target as surplus legal funds will be required for this lengthy campaign as matters continue to be delayed and fresh issues are likely to arise..
And lengthy this campaign will be as recently the Council has announced again that the publication date for the Local Plan has once more been pushed back and will not be issued this Summer as they had previously indicated. This time, they have not given a new date for publication but it is anticipated to be in the Autumn now.
As frustrating as this delay is for all of us, cloaking Chesham in a cloud of uncertainty, BNG are still working away behind the scenes. We are putting together our evidence base to present to the barrister to formulate a solid legal case.
The next stage that the BNG community will face arises when the Local Plan does eventually get published. We will all have six weeks to put in our personal submissions/objections. The consultation will ask quite technical points and for many people, guidance will be required. BNG are preparing to help our followers on this. BNG together with our retained barrister from Landmark Chambers will be putting together a guide on to how to respond to the Local Plan within the time frame. To receive this guide, you need to be on our mailing list. Sign up here.
In the meantime, there are still ways to keep our campaign alive. We have a new Secretary of State the Rt Hon James Brokenshire MP, replacing the Rt Hon Sajid Javid MP who many of you will have already written to. Nothing will help Mr Brokenshire settle into the nature and demands of his new role than receiving a number of handwritten (or typed) letters (rather than emails) asking him if he will continue with policies to protect the Green Belt outlined in the new draft National Planning Policy Framework. Read Phillip Plato's summary of the key points of the new draft National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF). The new NPPF bodes well for our cause adding further protections for the Green Belt.
Certainly, our local Councillors also need reminding that this threat of building on the Green Belt and overloading Chesham’s infrastructure has not gone away. More written letters to them will let them know where you, the voters, stand on this topic. Even if you have already written to them in the past, please write again and ask them what they are doing to protect the Green Belt and to improve Chesham's infrastructure. Postal addresses and advice on writing letters can be found on our How to Lobby page.
Thanks again to all the BNG community. Your financial contributions and messages of support have been much appreciated. Finally, a few words of wisdom oft repeated by the BNG team:
Do NOT assume the lack of news means we have been successful! We were always advised this campaign will be a marathon, not a sprint.
Thanks to your generosity we have now reached over 96% of our £7,000 crowdfunding target!
Our CrowdJustice page was due to close at noon on Tuesday 27 February but the organisers of CrowdJustice have kindly agreed to let our site stay "live" for another 30 days given we are so close to being fully funded.
Thank you all for your generosity to help us fight the Council's flawed proposals for releasing 60ha of land from Green Belt designation which they want "safeguarded" for future housing development.
Please continue to share this campaign with friends & family and ask them to donate what they can so we can be assured of being fully funded to retain our planning barrister as the final draft Local Plan emerges in the coming months. Funding instructions here.
Please follow the Brown Not Green website for further news updates.
Phillip Plato MRICS
Chairman - Brown Not Green Chesham Ltd
A not for profit company limited by guarantee.
Our fundraising efforts have gone into over-drive mode over the last few weeks and we have made great headway raising in excess of £17k. Thanks to all those that have contributed. As you probably know by now we are raising funds to retain a specialist Planning Barrister. She is Sasha Blackmore of Landmark Chambers, who are very highly-ranked specialists in Planning Law. We will use them to pick apart the Council's case for building on the Green Belt.
Phillip Plato, the BNG Chair, has been out and about on speaking engagements in residents' homes and the Black Cat Pub on Lycrome Road. The latest stage of his "tour" is at the White Hill Centre, tonight, Monday 12th February at 7.30pm.
If you haven't had the chance to attend one of our meetings so far, this will be the final chance on this leg of the tour. Here you will get the latest up-to-date information on our battle to protect the Green Belt around Chesham and ease the strain on our Town's infrastructure.
This may be the the last BNG speaking engagement for a while but this is by no means the end of our fundraising efforts. Although we are getting close to our target of £20k, It should be noted that this is a minimum target to justify retaining a Planning Barrister and our aim should be to exceed it. To that end we are still asking all those that haven't donated yet to consider helping now in any way they can to help reach our target. With the Council's "direction of travel" if we do nothing, Chesham will end up with an extra 900 houses on the Green Belt at the top of the hill. By raising funds to fight this proposal, we can dramatically reduce this figure or even prevent it from happening at all.
Our Crowdjustice campaign has just 14 days to run by which time it will no longer be possible to pledge money this way. If you have been thinking about donating but not got round to it, now is the time to do so. If you would rather donate by cheque or BACS, please visit our Fundraising page for further instruction. We will also be able to accept cash donations at White Hill tonight.
The BNG Directors firmly believe this is a cause worth fighting for. Between them they have personally put in a third of the monies raised so far. They have put their own money where their mouth is. We would like to offer a heartfelt thanks to everyone who has contributed. From those donating four figure sums to the pensioner in their 70s who was sorry that they could only contribute £5. You have all played your part. Thank you.
Hopefully see you at the White Hill Centre tonight.
The BNG Team
The Council’s published responses to the Green Belt Consultation in November 2017 and the outcome of a subsequent disappointing meeting between three BNG Directors and the Chief Planning Officer in early December 2017 has affirmed BNG’s view that they now need to retain a specialist Planning Barrister to advise generally and to represent this campaign at the future Local Plan Inquiry anticipated to be held sometime next year. BNG have commenced discussions with Sasha Blackmore of Landmark Chambers, who are very highly-ranked specialists in Planning Law.
Whilst fundraising is going well to fund this professional representation, BNG must ensure they have sufficient funds to cover the Barrister's full involvement and to this end the Chairman of BNG will be speaking at various public and private events in the coming weeks.
If you want to be updated on what is happening please try to attend one of the following events;
Alternatively, please keep an eye on our website for updated info and for details of our new crowdfunding initiative where from Midday on Sunday 28th January 2018 we can accept credit card donations via CrowdJustice.com. Please share this news on your private and social media networks such a Facebook, Twitter etc. The more people that hear about this the better.
The stark reality is that if we do nothing, we will lose these fields forever and Chesham will have an extra 900 homes eating into the already strained infrastructure. The Council Plans need to be challenged legally if we are to change their proposed "direction of travel" regarding this much cherished section of Greenbelt.
Thanks again for your support.
As was feared, recent official publications by the Council confirm that the Local Authority is still proposing changes to the Green Belt boundary to the North East of Chesham.
BNG now feel it will be necessary to hire a specialist barrister to represent BNG in the final official consultation and at the subsequent Examination in Public (Local Plan Inquiry). This was expressed at the Public Meeting organised by BNG in October where a fundraising initiative was launched.
In light of the Council’s publications BNG now urgently renews their call for donations from all residents & businesses in Chesham as the Council’s proposals will have a significant effect upon the wider town if left unopposed. We already have over 50% of the funds needed to retain a specialist planning barrister.
In the face of the recent Council publications outlined below, BNG now urges the Chesham Community to contribute towards funding professional opposition to these unsubstantiated and damaging proposals for Chesham.
PLEASE CLICK HERE TO MAKE A DONATION
BNG asserts that the notion of outward expansion of the town into Green Belt is in stark contrast to the more thoughtful Chesham Master Plan being created by the Chesham Renaissance Community Interest Company, under which more homes can be accommodated in the town centre avoiding increased traffic and air pollution but also whilst regenerating the High Street and avoiding loss of any Green Belt. We fear that if the Council earmark a housing site for over 900 homes that is 2.5km from the town centre it will undermine the excellent work being done by Chesham Renaissance CIC.
The Council’s position on Green Belt Options was summarised on Tuesday 7 November 2017 at the Joint Committee of South Bucks & Chiltern District Councils where Members reviewed the Post Preferred Green Belt Options report that had been published by the planning officers a couple of days before the Council meeting.
This has been the first official indication of the Council’s reaction to the numerous objections made by the community to the Green Belt Options Consultation that the Council had concluded nearly a year ago.
To read the document, please click HERE.
In respect of the Green Belt land to the North East of Chesham at Lye Green, despite concerns in the recent report alluding to the sustainability of the location and in spite of the main landowner’s reluctance to release additional land on the site, the planning officer’s recommendation was that the whole 60 hectare site should be removed from Green Belt designation and safeguarded for future development after the end of the new Local Plan in 2036.
Many BNG supporters, who had picked up on this announcement, emailed their Councillors or members of the Joint Committee before the meeting. A number of local residents also attended the Joint Committee Council Meeting near Denham and subsequently expressed their frustration to BNG at the minimal amount of time given to debate this important matter.
Furthermore many attendees complained that more time was spent debating and approving a £5,000 loyalty bonus to planning officers than the Post Preferred Green Belt Option report.
The Chesham location was one of four of the 15 Green Belt Preferred Options listed in the report with a recommendation that the whole site should be removed from Green Belt designation and safeguarded for future development after the end of the new Local Plan in 2036 or at any early Local Plan Review (normally every 5 years).
All the remaining 11 Green Belt Option sites, bar one, are also recommended for removal from the Green Belt designation but specifically for development within the forthcoming Local Plan period.
The Chief Planning Officer, Graham Winwright responded to the only question raised by one of the Councillors at the Joint Committee on the proposal to “safeguard” land, saying that “no final decision” has yet been made but that this report “merely gave an indication of the direction of travel” in the ongoing Local Plan process.
The Chairman of BNG, Phillip Plato, spoke to Mr Winwright after the meeting and asked him to confirm that it would be inappropriate for any unsustainable location to be safeguarded in the Local Plan. Phillip also highlighted the risks of removing 60ha from Green Belt protection when only about 26ha are regarded by the Council as “developable” or necessary for the perceived housing need. Within hours of asserting unsustainable locations should indeed not be removed from Green Belt and earmarked for development, Mr Winwright sought to modify his response given after the Council Meeting and stated in an email to Mr Plato that “I do not think an ‘unsustainable location’ should be the determining factor in whether land should be safeguarded from the Green Belt but rather whether any resultant development is capable of being sustainable”
[Editor’s note: For the avoidance of doubt, the Planning definition of the word safeguarding used by Mr Winwright here means protecting for development rather than protecting against the development. Therefore safeguarded land would be built on.]
BNG have asserted that the site NE of Chesham at Lye Green is unsustainable, undeliverable, unviable, undesirable and that to date the Council have failed to demonstrate the existence of any demonstrable exceptional circumstances being justified for this site’s removal from Green Belt designation.
National Planning Guidance (NPPF) is clear and states that Green Belt boundaries should only be changed in “exceptional circumstances”. Case law has indicated that housing needs alone are not “exceptional circumstances”. BNG now feel they MUST fund a specialist Barrister to argue the case against this site being removed from Green Belt as development at that location would harm the wider town too.
BNG appreciate there may well be a case for a mix of Brownfield and Green Belt development in the administrative area of Chiltern & South Bucks although given the topography of Chesham and the many concerns relating to Lye Green specifically and Chesham generally, they feel any Green Belt proposals need to be somewhere else and that the mix should strive to be mostly brownfield.
In terms of Green Belt, BNG feel that the starting point must be what National Guidance says. Specifically, whether there are “exceptional circumstances” for an area being removed from Green Belt designation in the first place. Case law indicates that neither the process of preparing a Local Plan nor housing need alone constitutes “exceptional circumstances”. Only after identification of such “exceptional circumstances” should questions be asked of whether the land should be safeguarded or whether it is sustainable for proposed development.
In terms of the Lye Green area the latest report (Post Preferred Green Belt Options – Nov 2017) states that “exceptional circumstances could exist” (our italics) subject to further evidence base work, testing etc. BNG submit that this is not enough and that only after exceptional circumstances are demonstrated, should any site be considered for removal from Green Belt designation. Therefore, it seems premature to be recommending this site for removal from Green Belt as well as “safeguarding” it. Even more so where there are concerns on sustainability, deliverability, viability and the methodology being used by the Council to quantify housing need.
A specialist planning Barrister is now to be retained to make the formal submissions to the final draft Local Plan in June 2018 AND to then appear at the subsequent Examination in Public (Local Plan Inquiry) to highlight these issues before an independent Planning Inspector. Please pledge or donate to the BNG fundraising campaign. (CLICK HERE)
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Post Script: On a separate but connected note, BNG Supporters will be interested to read a letter addressed to to the Rt Hon Sajid Javid MP, the Secretary of State for the Department for Communities and Local Government from a handful of Parliamentary Members including the Rt Hon Cheryl Gillan MP. It is self-explanatory and can be read by clicking here. This news was echoed in the recent Budget where Phillip Hammond, Chancellor of the Exchequer announced "the government will continue their strong protection of our Green Belt.” Read the comprehensive CPRE reaction to the Budget by clicking here.