County Council’s helicopter view on plans for growth
Buckinghamshire is set to grow by around 45,000 homes in the next couple of decades, detail that will soon emerge in District Local Plans.
The County Council is looking at the potential impact of this and how it can best plan such things as services, schools and transport into the future.
It has been working with the four district councils on forming their local plans, with a view to creating quality communities supported by the infrastructure they’ll need.
Now there’s a need to take a helicopter view across the county to see how local plans fit together, what future services are needed, and how these and infrastructure needs can be met.
The first step, discussed by the Cabinet yesterday (Monday July 24), agreed someground rules for putting together a strategic infrastructure plan – spatial principles that align to where district local plans propose housing growth.
Key principles are that Buckinghamshire favours:
- Concentrated rather than dispersed housing and employment development
- Development that is well connected to transport corridors and transport hubs
- Growth patterns that respect the County’s environmental and other planning constraints, including Green Belt and Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty.
Adopting these principles will enable the County Council to effectively plan and provide services, and work with stakeholders to meet service and infrastructure needs efficiently and in a joined-up way.
It will also help officers and politicians to work with neighbouring county councils to best accommodate regional growth, such as across the Oxford to Cambridge corridor, and with transport schemes in the south of the county – the M4 smart motorway scheme, and the western rail link to Heathrow Airport.
Deputy Cabinet Member for Planning and Environment, Clive Harriss, said: “We’re facing an unprecedented period of growth in housing, in population, and in the economy, and this will make significant demands on infrastructure.
“Housing growth is the vision of the four district councils and we want to work closely with them so that the County Council’s infrastructure delivery matches their vision, and we can continue to develop our beautiful county as a place people want to live and work.”
Clive said the County Council had no budget to pay for infrastructure, but would have to look at options that included limited resources provided by developer contributions, the Government’s Local Growth Fund, and the Housing Infrastructure Fund.
“We may not be statutorily obliged to have an infrastructure plan, said Clive, “but it shows we’re ahead of the game when it comes to bidding for the funding we’ll need to make it happen.”
County Council Leader Martin Tett said: “Buckinghamshire’s population is growing rapidly. There is also a housing shortage, particularly for our young people. It’s therefore inevitable that district councils will plan for housing growth. What is really important is that this growth is in the right place and is accompanied by the essential services such as roads, schools, broadband, doctors, etc. that people have a right to expect.
“The Bucks Strategic Infrastructure Plan is designed to help district colleagues identify the best places for growth and suggest how money can be found for key infrastructure. Bottom line is that we need to be shaping how the county grows, rather than having future generations say ‘who let this happen?’.”
The strategic infrastructure plan picks up priorities set by the Local Enterprise Partnership two years ago andensures that decisions about growth in Bucks give maximum benefit to residents and businesses in line with the County Council’s Strategic Plan.
The second stage in putting together the plan will look at the cost of infrastructure, how it could be funded and how it could be built to make the most of resources and service efficiencies.
The Strategic Infrastructure Plan for Buckinghamshire is being compiled in partnership with Local Partnerships, a group jointly owned by HM Treasury and the Local Government Association.