Letters to the Editor

Quill and Ink Bottle

The Editor welcomes correspondence on any topic which has been in Wendover News or may be of interest to its readers.  Please write to us at Florence Nightingale Hospice Shop, First Floor, 19 High Street, Wendover HP22 6DX or email us at the usual address: editor@wendovernews.co.uk or telephone 01296 624270 or speak to us in the town.  

Letters may be edited and may or may not be published at the Editor's discretion. Material published does not necessarily represent the opinion of the Editor.

We'd love to hear from you.

Response to Planning Concern Letter in Wendover News

Jeff Membery, Assistant Director, Aylesbury Vale District Council,   |  Submitted: May 23rd 2017
A recent letter in Wendover News raised concerns over the planning process in Aylesbury Vale and I wanted to respond to some of your reader’s points. Planning decisions for the Vale are decided either by elected councillors at committee, or by planning officers, depending on the size and complexity of the proposed development. Importantly, however, although some influence can be exerted by local policies and neighbourhood plans, the essential criteria against which any planning decision must be made, is set in law by government. This applies whether the decision is made by councillors or officers.

For planning applications there is a statutory presumption in favour of development, that any challenges must overcome. As your reader mentions, where the council refuses an application, the developer has a legal right of appeal to the planning inspectorate. Not only can they overturn the council’s decision, but also award the developer costs and these must be met by local council taxpayers. Conversely, where applications are granted, objectors cannot appeal to the planning inspectorate and the only possible remedy is judicial review, which is restricted to matters of law.

There is a local and national shortage of homes and Aylesbury Vale is required by the government to accept major growth over the next few years, as well as to meet the ever-growing housing needs of our community. But councillors and officers alike always work to get the best deal they can for local residents, while operating within the confines of planning legislation.

Who is making the planning decisions for Aylesbury Vale?

Helen Sharp, Aylesbury Vale  |  Submitted: May 11th 2017
I am somewhat confused about how democracy is supposed to work in Aylesbury Vale. I have parish councillors, district councillors, county councillors and an MP. From local planning meetings I have attended, conversations with councillors at all levels and from concerned comments posted by my MP on various planning applications regarding large scale developments in the Vale, it is clear, all of these individuals seem to agree with many of their constituents that large scale developments pose a threat in many ways to the Vale’s character, landscape and current infrastructure. These are the people we have voted for and appear to be trying to protect the Vale from further large scale development. And yet it keeps happening. Fields, hedgerows and copses in Aston Clinton, Stoke Mandeville, Weston Turville and Wendover are being ripped up under the teeth of the developer’s diggers. In Worlds End the preservation of a Site of Special Scientific Interest in its current condition hangs by a thread dependent on the decision to be made by the Planning Inspectorate in June. My question is, to those who can answer, via this newspaper, who is doing this to us and the Vale? More importantly why are they doing this? We do not want it. My elected representatives do not want it. So please, tell us, the people who pay their council tax to those paid to make these decisions, why you want it? In the very least, we deserve an answer.

Wendover Neighbourhood Plan

Resident, Princess Mary Gate  |  Submitted: Apr 12th 2017
While I fully support the principle of local and neighbourhood planning, I have to say that the recent actions of Aylesbury Vale District Council's planning department leaves me wondering why anyone in Wendover should bother engaging with the Wendover Neighbourhood Plan process.

The last major development in the area, the building of the Princess Mary Gate estate, was carried out under the terms of the 2004 Aylesbury Vale District Local Plan. The section on Wendover said that the development should only go ahead if trees of amenity value were retained; many were removed to make way for the much-needed house, but the value of those left behind was recognised and a blanket tree protection order placed on them. Yet fast forward to 2017 and AVDC's planning officials say it's perfectly acceptable to chop down these protected trees so that one household can make its already large kitchen even larger.

The Parish Council can say what it likes about the importance of designing a good Neighbourhood Plan, but based on the actions of AVDC I have absolutely no confidence that in the years to come it will not simply be ignored at will by an unelected, unaccountable planning official.

RAF Halton Closure

Brian Bostock, Halton  |  Submitted: Apr 10th 2017
As a Halton resident I read the two pieces on the closure of RAF Halton with considerable interest.

The chair of HPC reports that the Parish Council have developed an overall plan that "seeks to protect the open vistas we see today, maintain the rural nature of the parish and provide a mix of residential and commercial uses". He goes on to say that they have shared their ideas with a wide range of interested parties. But not with the residents of Halton!

The comment from AVDC Planning offers a slightly different picture.

They say "work in relation to its development potential by external consultants is only at very early stages and no decisions relating to future development have yet been made". AVDC concludes by saying that residents of Wendover would like to know more but there is nothing more they can say.

It struck me that many Halton residents would also like to know more about what might or might not happen to the 743 acres that have intimately surrounded them for decades. At present it would appear they are being overlooked by both their Parish Council and AVDC.

£1000 fine revisited

Name and Address Supplied, Wendover  |  Submitted: Apr 5th 2017
Dear Editor,
As a dog owner, l totally agree with the letter posted (in April's print edition). It infuriates me that people either do not pick up their dog mess, or do then tie it to a tree, fence or leave on the side.
To the non picker uppers, shame on you. You choose to have a dog, be responsible and clean up after them. It gives those of us who do collect and clean up a bad name.
For the picker uppers who then tie to a tree, fence or place daintily on the side - NEWS FLASH - you may need to sit for this. THERE IS NO POO FAIRY! Who exactly do you think picks them up? You pick up you clear up. In the word of a famous TV advert involving small furry creatures, SIMPLES!
Many thanks.

£1,000 fine!

Name and Address Supplied, Halton Village  |  Submitted: Mar 14th 2017
If you are a dog owner you need to be aware that AVDC can impose a fine of £1,000 if your dog fouls and you don't pick it up. Putting a poo bag in a tree, on a fence or on the ground is also unacceptable.

As a new dog owner I am totally shocked and disappointed at the amount of dog fouling which is left everywhere, even next to the dog bins, in Halton Village. It's impossible to walk more a few steps without coming across a dog deposit. To leave your dog mess is extremely inconsiderate and antisocial. Everyone is aware of the health risks but that aside it's just plain unpleasant. Halton has plenty of dog bins so there is no excuse for not picking up what your dog deposits. If you use dog walkers please ask them to clear up the mess from your dog.

You need to be aware that people living in the village can see dog walkers and witness inconsiderate behaviour. You can buy a lot of poo bags for £1,000 so please consider others and pick it up.

If you do pick up after your dog, thank you and please thank others if you see them being considerate. If you witness inconsiderate behaviour please remind people that there is a fine.

A disappointed Halton resident.

RAF Closure

Name and address supplied, Halton  |  Submitted: Feb 15th 2017
There seems to a great number of ideas being put forward about the use of the RAF land once the closure takes place. As a resident of Halton I would like to make a few points.

We need to be aware that the land is being sold to make money which I can only assume means the majority will be sold as building land. In which case the increase in population will stretch local facilities to the limit and make roads even busier.

We need to ensure that local roads, in and around Halton, are improved to make them safer and reduce traffic build up at busy time, especially at Main Point. The village roads are used as ‘rat runs’ . Halton Lane has approximately 5,000 vehicles a day travelling at speeds up to 80mph! The village road has traffic numbers well over 3,000 per day, again travelling at speeds well over the 30mph limit.

The new houses being built at Weston Turville will also impact on Halton traffic. At this stage we obviously have no idea how many new homes will be built on the RAF land. However, it would seem sensible to assume that local schools and doctors won’t be able to cope with a continuing population increase. It would seem sensible to suggest that a new school will possibly be required, or expansion of existing schools. An additional doctors surgery linked with the Weston Grove practice would help to serve the increased population. Small local shops to serve the new Halton population would help to alleviate parking and traffic problems in Wendover. A bus service into Wendover from Halton would again help to alleviate parking problems but provide valuable support for local businesses as well as reducing car use and pollution. Perhaps with our ageing population a care home or sheltered accommodation would be a valuable addition to the area. New housing needs to provide for all ages. There are some excellent sports facilities already in place which could provide facilities for the local population or local schools. Once these basic needs are catered for perhaps consideration can be given to some of the more adventurous ideas currently being put forward.

Halton and Wendover are beautiful areas to live and many more people will in the future have the opportunity to enjoy not just the beauty of the area but the friendly, caring people who live and work here. It will be great to see local businesses thriving with a new population to support them. This could be a great opportunity to improve facilities and infrastructure for people already living here and provide a great place to live for new people.

A resident of the area for nearly 50 years.

The Manor Waste Refurbishment

Ella Jones, Clerk to Wendover Parish Council, Wendover  |  Submitted: Dec 12th 2016
Wendover Parish Council feels that it is important to clarify some misunderstandings that have resulted from the recent improvements to the Manor Waste.

The Manor Waste project was carried out because this busy area was worn down by heavy use that resulted in 370 broken slabs and uneven cobbles. Because of the unevenness the area had become difficult for users with mobility issues and unpleasant for even younger people with prams. Adverse comments were received; many villagers had fallen and/or injured themselves on the old surface.

The Parish Council started to develop a plan with a simple objective. That was to make the area stronger, safer and more useful for all.

An outline design was commissioned from a local architect.

Wendover Parish Council does not accept that its proposals were not sufficiently open to public scrutiny – meetings of the Amenities Committee and Parish Council are publicised and held in public.

This outline was publicised at council meetings, including the Annual Parish Meeting, where Councillors and the designer were available to discuss the project. Wherever possible the wishes of the community were sought and listened to and the design was adjusted over a period of 4 or 5 years. It came a long way in that time, from a black and white colour scheme with large concrete balls to what we see today.

Councillors engaged with thousands of people to arrive at the hundreds of detailed survey responses that informed the final design.

The consensus led to a design that broadly speaking, updated the 1977 take on the space with a smoother surface with more seating.

The final design was then presented to the planning authority, AVDC, and when they gave the go ahead the work began.

In response to some specific questions on the design published in Wendover News....

Access: The dropped kerbs in the Manor Waste area are to facilitate access for buggies/prams, mobility scooters and wheelchairs and not for vehicles, so there is no need for retractable bollards at these points.

The kerb line has been maintained and retractable bollards have been installed where vehicles are to gain access.

Tactile Paving: Tactile surfaces act as a warning of change for pedestrians with sight challenges. The paving works in with a number of other techniques used by the visually impaired pedestrian.

Drainage: The new surface has been laid to the pre-existing fall with a new gulley installed to assist drainage. It seems to work quite well.

Wendover Parish Council believes that the design brief was fit for purpose and that the outcome is going to serve the village for many, many years. The works were carried out in accordance with current planning regulations.

The Parish Council would also like to respond to those that have written in support of the development. The Council sends its gratitude to those that have offered support for the development, those that completed the consultation questionnaire and those that contributed ideas and opinions at public meetings or by discussing with Councillors.

The Manor Waste Refurbishment

Chris Richards, Aylesbury  |  Submitted: Dec 9th 2016
I have been following the Manor Waste debate with interest. Following Belinda Brackley’s well-researched letter about policy and the impact of this refurbishment on the surrounding Conservation Area, there are important lessons by the District Council and future applicants for funds received through AVDC. As an ex-Independent District Councillor for Wendover and Halton and a member of AVDC’s Planning Committee ,conservation area issues frequently arose. My thoughts are : policy – Local Authorities - of which our Parish Council is one - have permitted development powers therefore they did not need planning permission to refurbish the Manor Waste. Impact - I would have thought that prior to any decisions about the overall look of the Manor Waste, contact could have been established with the Conservation Officer to seek their informal views on a design that would blend in better with the surrounding Conservation Area and advice asked about a solution to the Health and Safety issue raised by the cobbled section of the old Manor Waste. In Aylesbury’s Market Square, AVDC’s solution was to shave the tops of the cobbles, removing the problem whilst retaining this pleasing aspect of the Square. However considering the amount of money spent on this refurbishment it would be impractical to replace this inappropriate design – surface colours more suited to Oxfordshire and style more suited to a modern environment - so I hope that the PC looks into low cost options for addressing those issues.

Our District Councillors could have a big role to play by ensuring that any other Parish Councils receiving money from the District Council for similar projects in conservation areas are advised by the Council to seek informal advice from Conservation Officers. I believe this sorry saga has raised issues of national importance which our District Councillors should raise in full Council. It is irrational to have policies which ensure Joe Public living in a Conservation Area must engage with planners on a variety of issues; trees, windows, railings etc. yet once they step out of their house on to the pavement, a Local Authority through permitted development has no such restrictions. I suggest after that full Council discussion, AVDC writes to the Planning Minister proposing that rules be amended so that prior to any permitted development works in Conservation Areas, the advice of Conservation Officers must be sought.

The Manor Waste Conservation Area

Belinda Brackley, Dunsmore  |  Submitted: Oct 1st 2016
I have taken a little time to look into the advice, legal requirements and guidelines which inform decision-making regarding enhancements to Conservation Areas.

Historic England produced an excellent updated Advice Note in February of this year. This talks about appraisal and management of Conservation Areas by Local Authorities. The appraisal must consider threats to and opportunities for Conservation Areas and findings should be developed into a Management Plan. In 2011, Aylesbury Vale District Council produced an Appraisal of all their designated Conservation Areas and this included the Manor Waste. It is available on their website.

Under Section 71 of the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Act 1990 the Local Authority (Aylesbury Vale) has a duty to draw up and publish proposals for the preservation and enhancement of Conservation Areas. It is also a requirement that the Local Authority submits proposals to a Public Meeting. The Historic England Advice Note suggests there are major advantages, particularly in gaining public support, by encouraging owners, residents’ groups, amenity groups, business and community organisations to discuss the issues facing the Area and how these might be addressed. Management Plans, like Appraisals, which are drawn up without effective consultation are likely to be be misunderstood and ineffective.

The Advice Note also states that:

“Enhancement schemes can be achieved by sympathetic landscaping and planting, and the retention of features of local interest to maintain local character” and also that: “Proposals for conservation and enhancement will be most effective when all Departments within the Local Authority understand the significance of designation and work corporately to ensure that development decisions respect historic content”.

I note that the Parish Council now feel that its proposals were not sufficiently open to public scrutiny but I would also argue that Aylesbury Vale have been lacking in their involvement in this process too. It is certainly not acceptable that changes have been made to the paving, seating and planting without a Management Plan being consulted upon or produced. It is also unacceptable that only construction plans seem to have been available and no alternative samples of heritage paving, design details, detailed artistic drawings of the finished area, or possible seating options and planting schemes were made available to the public. Were any options presented for comment and debate at a public consultation meeting?

Of further concern is the statement contained in the Aylesbury Vale Appraisal of the Manor Waste:

“The Manor Waste itself is paved in a variety of slabs, setts and cobbles and is attractive and well maintained”.

There is not a single adverse comment on the surface of the Manor Waste. There are comments on too much signage, too many advertising A boards and too much clutter. The Appraisal recommends a street furniture and signage audit and a de-cluttering plan.

In a Conservation Area, it is important to retain the character of the area. This is a fundamental aim of designating an area as a Conservation Area. It is not necessary to replace sound, attractive, paving if new paving is detrimental to the area and any problems regarding people traversing the area safely could easily have been resolved by the installation of wider paths constructed in a high quality heritage paver in keeping with the listed buildings and local construction materials. This would have been considerably cheaper and would have enhanced the Conservation Area. It is not necessary for Conservation Areas to be totally flat and urbanised and neither is it desirable. The pavers and the new seats are designed for an urban environment and are only suitable for use in a modern concrete and glass environment or with modern wood/metal cladding. Frankly, the pavers are not acceptable anywhere! They are definitely not acceptable in a Conservation Area surrounded by many historic and listed buildings, some dating from the 16th century.

As the Appraisal of the Manor Waste found nothing wrong with the slabs, setts and cobbles, why was such a draconian, expensive and ruinous scheme carried out? What landscape design consultants were used and what understanding and knowledge did they have of the Appraisal, advice from Historic England or the historic centre of Wendover? Where is the Management and De-Cluttering Plan for the Manor Waste? What happened to any form of effective consultation and involvement of local people and businesses? Not only did the people who designed and implemented this scheme have no concept of how to enhance a Conservation Area, they ignored all sound advice and have used totally inappropriate materials and landscaping furniture, none of which is recommended in the Historic England Advice Note.

The Parish and District Councillors need to address, urgently, how this scheme can be rectified. They also need to establish a De-cluttering Plan and a Management Plan. They need, above all, to understand the concept of a Conservation Area, how to manage it, and provide a meaningful public consultation where they provide precise details, with alternatives, so people can express a view based on information which can be readily interpreted. It is also a good idea to include examples of enhancements to other Conservation Areas in other towns and villages to see what “best practice” looks like.

We have been badly let down by people entrusted to be informed and diligent in their management of this Conservation Area. It is simply not good enough.
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