Today, I was privileged to sit among some of the brightest minds Chesham has to offer to hear a presentation of the second stage of the Chesham Masterplan and Launch of the Public Consultation which begins tomorrow, November 4th.
We at Brown Not Green (BNG) have been campaigning against building on Greenbelt proposing that brownfield should be used first. Although we agree the need for more housing, we at BNG are not really coming up with any detailed solutions to the housing need problem in Chesham. The good folk of Chesham Renaissance, the Community Interest Company (CIC) set up for Chesham, have gone much further by coming up with a developed plan to not only protect the Greenbelt around Chesham but to build sustainable homes and promote carefully located employment land all within and around the environs of Chesham. Their joined-up thinking regarding infrastructure, transport, parking, pollution, quality of life, quality of employment and variability & affordability of different housing types shows far more imagination and innovation than the lazy planning option of just plonking 900 homes on the Greenbelt at the top of a very steep hill, a mile and half from the station.
So impressed was the attending Rt Hon Cheryl Gillan MP with the ground breaking work that the Chesham Renaissance CIC are doing with their bottom-up approach to building homes and re-invigorating Chesham that she would like to use them as a shining example to be shared with her colleagues, including the PM, in Parliament. Likewise, the Leader of the Chiltern District Council, Isobel Darby was very supportive. Every Councillor that spoke at this meeting appeared to be very much in support. We all recognised there is still much work to be done and many challenges lay ahead but none of these challenges are insurmountable.
If everyone is so convinced that this is the way forward and that Chesham's Greenbelt can be protected, why have we still not heard that the Greenbelt Option #1, the land to the North-East of Chesham, is no longer under threat? The meeting was well attended by many elected officials ranging from the local MP, County, District and Town Councillors.
The Head of Planning for Chiltern & South Bucks was not in attendance and it is this person that ultimately decides whether the Chesham Masterplan is incorporated into the Local Plan for Chiltern and South Bucks. It appears that the Head of Planning, playing his cards very close to his chest, still needs convincing regarding the strength of the Chesham MasterPlan and the protection of Chesham's Greenbelt despite the fact that building on Greenbelt without exceptional circumstances flies in the face of the Government National Planning Policy Framework.
Chesham Renaissance need to build a strong Evidence Base, thus one of the reasons for their Public Consultation. This consultation is in the form of an easy-to-complete questionnaire. Your response can be as brief or as long as you like. Your response will be used to shape and confirm the next stage of the Masterplan. What you say today will go towards designing the Chesham of the future. This is a real chance to have your say on how the Masterplan develops.
If you wish to find out more about the Chesham Masterplan, they will have an exhibition at Chesham Town Hall, tomorrow, Saturday November 4th between 10am and 3pm. Try and get along there. If you can't make it, it is worth investing the time exploring their fabulous website www.cheshammasterplan.org.
I came away from this meeting, very much inspired. Chesham Renaissance have a great team of Directors. They may have had what started out as a vision but they are heavy hitters and I have every confidence that if the Masterplan is incorporated into the Local Plan they can make it happen. The BNG Team are very much in favour of this project and urge our supporters to take part in the Chesham Masterplan Consultation. As with the BNG petition - even more so in fact - the more responses they receive the better.
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PS And if you haven't had a chance, don't forget to visit our Fund-raising page. It looks like we may be needing to commence legal work very soon.