RAF Closure November 2017 update
We now have a further threat to Wendover. One that could potentially change the nature of Wendover in a far greater way than the new railway once completed. The revised Vale of Aylesbury Local Plan (VALP) has been published and it will be subject to a consultation in November. Ahead of this we have considered the content and have formed some initial reactions – these are set out below. The Wendover Society in principle welcomes any development that will:
- Be sympathetic to the historic nature of Wendover and in keeping with its conservation area status.
- Provide housing and local employmentfor younger people – helping to keep Wendover as a vibrant community cateringfor all age ranges.
- Be supported by the appropriate level of infrastructure.
The ‘new’ VALP has dropped the requirementfor 800 houses on the field on the Tring Road. Instead 1000 houses are planned for RAF Halton site after it closes in 2022. The Wendover Society welcomes the recognition that no large-scale housing sites exist within Wendover.
However, 1000 houses at Halton are only a ‘starter for ten’ and comment in the VALP indicates that this number may grow when the Halton Masterplan under preparation is published. We worry about the following in the VALP: “In terms of Wendover, approximately 1,000 homes will come forward during the Plan period at RAF Halton Camp after its closure in 2022. This is considered to be a realistic and somewhat conservative estimate, and the figure could increase as detailed master planning is developed.” An overall cap on the number of new homes is needed so that the effect on Wendover can be fully evaluated.
No breakdown of the housing provision by type of dwelling is mentioned. We would ask for a significant proportion of ‘starterhomes’ to be provided together with homes to rent. We believe this is necessary to meet the demand from younger families in what is a high price / rent housing area.
The Society believes that any further development that is not supported by its own level of infrastructure (e.g. roads & parking, retail, medical, schooling) will place intolerable burdens on the already overloaded facilities in Wendover. It is difficult therefore to comment or find ourselves in support of the VALP until an infrastructure plan is also developed to sit alongside the VALP.
- New Primary school provision is planned forthe Halton housing. However, no mentionis made of Secondary school provision.
- What about provision for medical services –doctors / dentists / chemist – is it assumed that the residents will use the existing services in Wendover?
- What road improvements will be made? Importantly what parking provision will be made? Existing parking provision is already overloaded.
The good news is that AVDC has, at the present time, maintained the areas of GreenBelt around Halton and Wendover but theyhave indicated that this may be subject to change in the future.
So, in summary our ability to constructively and fully comment is severely hampered bythe way plans are being prepared:
- AVDC have produced a VALP with only anoutline estimate of number of houses – but no detail.
- The MoD (through the Defence Infrastructure Organisation) are preparing a Halton Masterplan detailing what is to happen over the whole site – but they won’t tell us yet what their ideas are.
- Bucks CC are responsible for planning infrastructure provision to service thenew developments – but currently no plan seems to exist.
The problem stems from the fact that these exercises are being done by the differentgroups to different timescales – therefore the total picture cannot be seen.
We cannot sensibly comment on the 1000 homes proposal without knowing more detail, and what other developments such as employment & leisure services are to be provided on the RAF land.
As a Society, we will be seeking discussionswith all the three parties concerned to better understand the position.
A fuller version of this article can be seen at www.wendoversociety.org.uk/News/News.aspx. Click on 6 October 2017, initial reactions to latest VALP.
The full AVDC documentation can be seen at this linkhttps://www.aylesburyvaledc.gov.uk/sites/default/files/page_downloads/Submission%20VALP%20-%20high%20res2.pdf
John Mayhead CBE
Chairman of The Wendover Society
The draft VALP has arrived and your opinion of it will be coloured by if you are an optimist or a pessimist. An optimist would say they have not mentioned building on the airfield; the green belt has not been lifted and the 1000 dwellings they talk about are equivalent to the existing footprint of buildings so it is not so bad. A pessimist would say they are threatening to lift the Green Belt the next time around; 1000 now, but how many more; where is the infrastructure?; and the area allocated for housing contains the playing fields bounded by Chestnut Avenue and Halton Lane.
While all of the above is true, the real issues for us are more focussed. A little bit of background first. Halton has 309 dwellings and a population of 935. On the VALP plans this grows to 1309 dwellings and about 3400 people. For a small rural community this is amassive change.
The first major issue is that AVDC has ignored the affected communities completely. Halton has not been communicated with, engaged or consulted about the 1000 dwellings. AVDC have not felt the need, desire or responsibility to engage with a community which they intend to subject to a seismic change. This cannot be not right.
Secondly the lack of definitive information stops us from being able to properly comment on the Local Plan – the consultation is flawed. There is no real information about Halton in the plan. So we are being consulted on a Plan (the VALP) which fails to provide us with the basic information – we do not have the masterplan on how the land will be used after disposal; we do not understand how they will protect the heritage assets or the environment; or the setting of the AONB; what the traffic management details for the area; what are the infrastructure plans? and how they will support the development.
We cannot meaningfully respond to this consultation. Finally there is a series of mistakes in the VALP. I would like to highlight three of them:
- Geography. AVDC appears to believe RAF Halton is in Wendover and the Parish of Halton has disappeared. Unless there has been a boundary change for the Parish this is nonsense. Of the 740 acres being disposed of by the MOD most of that is in Halton Parish with a few acres in Aston Clinton Parish. Not only is this insultingto the people of Halton but the people of Wendover may wish to get it clarified as the plan in S2 Spatial strategy states”Wendover will accommodate around1,128 new homes”.
- Green Belt. In the earlier draft of the plan AVDC proposed lifting the Green Belt fromthe RAF main site – parcel RSA-3. AVDC’s rationale for doing so was weak and failed to meet the exceptional tests on a numberof grounds. The latest position on the Green Belt is ‘Whilst the arguments for releasing the RAF Halton site still remain, because of the change in circumstances and the future work to be done around how the site is developed after its closure, it is considered premature to define the boundary of the site to be released from the Green Belt. This boundary will be defined in a future Local Plan review.’ We believe this statement needs to be removed completely. It implies the rationale for lifting the Green Belt status is to meet future housing needs rather than exceptional reasons. In addition it adds a degree of future uncertainty and blight for the area over the final level of housing.
- Policy Map. This shows where the housing allocation will go. It contains a number ofgross errors:
- The Draft VALP shows that the artificial grass pitch, sports pavilion and at least two playing fields off Chestnut Avenue and Halton Lane are now allocated for housing. Not only is this contrary to AVDC’s position on leisure facilities in the plan it is also against the National Planning Policy Framework.
- Part of the listed estate gardens of Halton House now appear to be allocated for housing, which is clearly wrong.
- Although a large number of jobs will go when RAF Halton closes, no land has been allocated for employment which if we are to have a sustainable development needs to be identified.
So what should we do?
The Draft Aylesbury Vale Local Plan Consultation starts on 2 November and finishes on 14 December. We would like asmany people as possible to respond asking for the missing information, pointing out the errors in the plan and asking AVDC to consult with the affected communities.
The full AVDC documentation can be seen atthis link https://www.aylesburyvaledc.gov.uk/sites/default/files/page_downloads/Submission%20VALP%20-%20high%20res2.pdf
Brian Thompson Chair
Halton Parish Council, firstname.lastname@example.org