RAF Halton Closure – Where are we? Where are we going?
There are two key players in what happens at the RAF Halton site when it closes – one being the local planning authority Aylesbury Vale District Council (AVDC) and the other being the DIO (Defence Infrastructure Organisation). Both parties appear to be busy planning. In the case of AVDC they are still dotting the i’s and crossing the t’s on the local plan. We have to wait until November before we discover if they are still proposing to remove the greenbelt status from the mainsite. The DIO are busy planning not least where will the activity from Halton go and then what could happen to the land. So in this quiet period let us speculate on what the impact on Wendover could be.
It is clear there could be a range of outcomes from an acceptable increase in housing which is well thought out and works both for the local community and area through to a large area of high density housing where we the community will have to pick up the pieces. Whatever happens, Halton will be the most significantly affected community. All of the land being disposed of is in Halton and just a small element in Aston Clinton. But returning to Wendover, there will be impacts. Let me give you my view.
Firstly Infrastructure. Today, people in Halton look to Wendover for basic infrastructure – health centre capacity, dentists, secondary school places, shops and restaurants/pubs. The fear is any large development in Halton will have a knock on impact on Wendover. Given the close links we have, this is a reasonable fear. However it is in both Wendover’s and Halton’s interests to ensure that basic infrastructure is put in place when new housing developments are started. Now AVDC have mentioned that Halton could be a ‘Garden Village’. If it worked, then this would mean that basic infrastructure requirements may be funded by central government.
Secondly, for sure there will be an increase in traffic. If Wendover has a problem today then it would make sense to try and sort it out before any large scale development in Halton made the whole system lock up. Having more housing will drive up traffic movements. So for Wendover the issue around the Clock Tower would need to be considered. Equally, if these new residents in Halton are to enjoy the Wendover environment, then perhaps the resolution of the parking issue will take on a more urgent hue.
Before you say go away and mind your own business, let me remind you that RAF Halton is the major employer in the area. The personnel there spend their money in Wendover and other places rather than Halton. Now that will change with the closure of RAF Halton, but I would suggest that what or who ever replaces it could equally be a potential customer for Wendover.
On that note, let’s talk about housing. I have heard people say that Halton can take what Wendover does not commit to do. If it was only that simple. Maybe Aston Clinton, Weston Turville and others feel the same. We will be working to get the best solution for Halton, just as your Parish Council will be doing the same for you. Given my understanding of how the process works I do not believe the ‘powers that be’ believe Halton is a surrogate for Wendover. What ever we end up with may or may not influence what the District Council allocates to Wendover and equally we will have a voice as well.
However, Wendover faces a couple of other real challenges. Firstly the service housing will be released. It is likely a developer will see what was achieved on the hospital site and want to emulate it on the service housing in Wendover. Secondly if HS2 goes ahead I can envisage them trying to make money out of selling the land they have acquired to build the green tunnel for housing.
All in all a world of uncertainty, not least of which is that Bucks County Council and AVDC are both seeking to be unitary authorities. That means they would have all the powers – planning, transport, education and so on. You may have views on who you trust, however that is why I think we as separate communities need to work together on a equal basis. It is in our mutual interest to become allies.
Chair, Halton Parish Council