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
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had allocated the Green Belt NE of Chesham for development of up to 900 homes and a gypsy travellers’ site was formally withdrawn from any further public Examination by the Council on 23 October.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Value (ACV) status in September 2020 (namely before the announcement about the Chiltern & South Bucks Local Plan being withdrawn).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
BNG is not a political party and will always endeavour to remain politically neutral but the events leading up to these Hearing Sessions and the revoking of the ACV status of the land at Lye Green, North-East of Chesham, had prompted BNG to question what benefit there are to be had in the major political parties being so involved in local policies and so BNG encourages independent candidates to stand for election at the forthcoming local elections on May 7th.
BNG are pleased to report some success in this regard with candidates coming forward already to seek election as Town Councillors for Chesham with potentially a couple also wishing to stand as Councillors for the new Unitary Authority that will come into effect on the 1st April. BNG would like to see more!
Residents For Chesham has been set up to support independent candidates.
View their website here: www.residents4chesham
BNG, with circa 1,800 supporters, is prepared to assist any independent candidate who is concerned about the Emerging Local Plan and proposals for building on Green Belt without having first tested or identified all the brownfield opportunities. Or concerned with the creation of Local Plan policies which the Council have acknowledged will see significant increases in the carbon footprint of the district in direct contradiction of Central Government Policy and their own declaration of a Climate Emergency.
If anyone is interested in joining this campaign to stand as an independent councillor, please get in contact with BNG through the website and BNG can put them in touch with an independent coordinator at Residents For Chesham.
Postscript: Due to COVID-19, the elections have been postponed to 2021.
PLEASE NOTE, THE HEARINGS HAVE BEEN POSTPONED UNTIL FURTHER NOTICE DUE TO COVID-19
Independent Inspectors have now been appointed to commence the Examination Hearings of the Chiltern and South Bucks Local Plan. A few weeks ago, the timetable for the Stage 1 Hearings was announced.
The first day of hearings will commence on Tuesday 17th March 2020 and will be conducted at the Crowne Plaza Hotel, Gerrard Suite, Oxford Road, Beaconsfield HP9 2XE. Hearings are scheduled to continue until Thursday 26th March, but it must be emphasised that these are Stage One Hearings and will not be considering site specific issues until the Stage Two Hearings are undertaken probably in mid-May or early June.
However, BNG have been devoting considerable resources to making representations and intend to attend all Stage One Hearing Sessions and have submitted Hearing Statements in respect of all Matters that the Inspectors want to discuss in the Stage One Hearings.
The Inspectors had sent some Initial Questions to the Council, to which the Council recently responded to and subsequently the Inspectors have published their Matters Issues and Questions (MIQ’s) to be considered at the Examination Hearings and BNG, whilst making representations on all issues in the Stage One Hearings, feel that the topics on Day One (Tuesday 17 March - re Legal Compliance) and on Wednesday the 25th March (re the general issue of Green Belt release and GB boundary changes) are the most important.
PLEASE NOTE MEMBERS OF THE PUBLIC ARE ALLOWED TO ATTEND ALL HEARING SESSIONS BUT WILL NOT BE ALLOWED TO SPEAK OR MAKE REPRESENTATIONS UNLESS THEY HAVE SOUGHT PERMISSION FROM THE INSPECTORS TO DO SO BEFOREHAND.
BNG will therefore be attending all Hearing Sessions and will be represented either by their retained barrister (Sasha Blackmore of Landmark Chambers) or by Phillip Plato MRICS or another representative of BNG.
Supporters may be interested to know that in addition to the Hearing Statements for each Stage One topic, BNG have also coordinated with other community groups to submit a Statement of Common Ground. This has now been submitted too and aside from BNG, involves; Chesham Society, the Chiltern Society, Holmer Green Residents Society and Chesham Renaissance CIC (authors of the Chesham Masterplan).
Copies of this Statement of Common Ground and all the Hearing Statement Submissions by BNG can be found below together with the Initial Questions raised by Inspectors to the Council, the Council’s responses to those Initial Questions, and the Inspectors MIQ’S.
BNG hope that anyone interested in attending the Hearing Sessions will feel free to do so and sit in the public gallery of the forthcoming independent inspection, as this is clearly the final and most critical stage in the BNG campaign to have this flawed Local Plan modified or withdrawn.
Examination Supporting Documentation:
We recently reported on the Council’s outrageous decision to remove Green Belt land to the North-East of Chesham from a list of Assets of Community Value (ACV) and you will be aware that BNG had taken legal advice which revealed that there were several grounds for mounting a challenge under Judicial Review.
Unfortunately, such challenges are not granted automatically, they require Leave of the Court and as such are expensive. Also for understandable reasons, most lawyers want fees paid in advance of such litigation.
For the last couple of months, BNG have been campaigning against this ACV Review decision with a view to raising further funds from the community to mount a Judicial Review challenge. However, the time limits for making any such legal challenges are very restrictive and it is with some reluctance that the BNG directors recently concluded that they could not fund this litigation.
This is not only due to funding but also because other developments relating to the Local Plan Stage One Public Examination Hearings being recently been announced, which now requires BNG’s focus and for remaining funds to be prioritised to maintain BNG’s continued opposition to the Local Plan.
The Local Plan is still seeking to allocate this land for development and to remove a number of villages around Chesham from Green Belt status. These proposals and many other flawed components of the Local Plan are of serious concern to many BNG supporters as well as to other community groups and BNG felt that the ACV issue, whilst grossly unfair, should not be a distraction from this objective. However, BNG are not abandoning the ACV issue and will be making a formal complaint to the Local Authority about the ACV Review Decision which may then be referred to the Local Government Ombudsman in due course.
We continue to welcome financial contributions from the community as already with current expenditure on consultancy & legal advice our funds have run down with BNG Directors dipping further into their pockets to make up the shortfall. Go to our fundraising page to see how you can help.
We will be publishing further news over the the next couple of days.
Thanks again for all your support.
The BNG Team
Members of the Brown Not Green Campaign