Housing tidal wave threatens our special Chilterns countryside

The Chiltern Society has expressed its increasing concern at a “tidal wave” of planning applications which it says seriously threaten the special Chilterns countryside.

“The new year has started with district councils putting forward ever worrying threats to the Green Belt and even the Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB),” said Society trustee Paul Mason.

“We cautiously welcome the Government’s decision to designate Aylesbury as a Garden Town because it will help the local council to plan in a co-ordinated way for the 27,000 homes that are due to be built in the Aylesbury Vale over the next few years. The council can now look at the bigger picture ensuring there will be plenty of green spaces, trees, gardens and walking and cycle ways, and a balance of jobs and homes. We will be monitoring progress to try and ensure that happens

“However, in stark contrast is the situation in the rest of the area in and around the Chilterns where a tidal wave of tens of thousands of new houses are planned in Buckinghamshire, Hertfordshire, Bedfordshire and Oxfordshire. Some of these are on Green Belt and encroach the AONB.”

Mr Mason added: “It is inconceivable that Government planning policy is putting most local authorities in a position where they feel they need to consider a cavalier and short sighted approach to the beauty and heritage of our special Chilterns landscape.

“The method for estimating future housing demand in the Chilterns is clumsy and flawed. It needs to focus on realistic local requirements – including housing, business and infrastructure – and not simply be a response to a blanket Government formulae.

“The Society is calling on local authorities to be bold and look again at the rationale of permanently damaging the countryside for the sake of complying with current Government planning guidelines.”

The Chiltern Society, with 7,000 members, is the leading conservation charity in the Chilterns with hundreds of active volunteers maintaining important heritage sites and nature reserves.

Chairman David Harris said: “We oppose development within or affecting the setting of the AONB which fails to conserve or enhance the natural beauty. We believe that any new development within the AONB should be small scale and restricted to land within existing developments or on brownfield sites.

“We also oppose new development in existing Green Belt which fails to protect its openness, or undermines its purposes, including the unrestricted sprawl of large built-up areas and neighbouring towns merging into one another.”