Buckinghamshire Councillors Report – July 22 Pitstone

Opportunity Bucks’ – ‘Levelling Up’ in Buckinghamshire

​Buckinghamshire Council’s Cabinet has this week approved a new programme aimed at promoting opportunity for all in the county. ‘Opportunity Bucks’ aims to help all residents access the fantastic opportunities on offer in Buckinghamshire where education, skills, work, living standards and health are concerned.

Following the government’s ‘Levelling Up’ White Paper earlier this year, Buckinghamshire Council has carried out extensive work to draw up a local approach to promote better opportunity for everyone. The result is our new programme “Opportunity Bucks – Succeeding for All.”

The approach will vary by area depending on what is most important locally and will initially focus on creating action plans for ten wards where outcomes for residents are poorer than in other parts of the county. The ten wards are in parts of Aylesbury, High Wycombe and Chesham.

This is a long-term piece of work and importantly is a partnership approach with other key stakeholders in the local areas such as housing associations, local businesses, voluntary and community groups, schools, and charitable organisations. Activities will be locally led by neighbourhood Community Boards along with local councillors

Planning enforcement success for Buckinghamshire Council

Buckinghamshire Council has issued the highest number of planning enforcement notices outside of London according to the latest national data. A planning enforcement notice is issued when an individual or developer is found to be in breach of planning control – it might be that someone has carried out works without planning permission when it was needed, or that they’ve done something that wasn’t within the granted permissions.

It’s a key priority for Buckinghamshire Council to clamp down on breaches of planning control – the process exists to make sure any work or development is appropriate and legal within nationally set planning laws. In Buckinghamshire we’re serving notices and taking early action against any breaches of planning control which is part of the reason we’re standing out for taking action. The aim is to intervene at the earliest opportunity to seek a remedy for the planning breach as quickly as we can.

Buckinghamshire Council has also served the highest number of ‘breaches of condition’ notices in the whole country – this is where individuals or developers have failed to adhere to conditions set out when planning permission for their project was granted.

Buckinghamshire Council to hit 25% renewable electricity target

As part of its commitment to tackling the climate crisis, Buckinghamshire Council is pleased to announce that from October of this year, 25% of the electricity it uses will come from renewable sources. We have finalised the details of how we will procure the energy for council buildings and assets like streetlights.

Buying renewable energy is one of a number of ways we’re tackling climate change in Buckinghamshire and is directly related to action 33 in our Climate Change and Air Quality Action Plan. It helps support the renewable generation sector, reduces emissions of greenhouse gases and other air pollutants, and our dependence on fossil fuels. The extraction, processing, and transportation of fossil fuels has various negative environmental impacts so this purchasing decision helps improve the Council’s environmental performance overall.

We will also be increasing the number of places where we will generate our own energy- we have twenty solar photovoltaic system installations so far and more are planned for the future.

Charity offers free tennis sessions for Bucks residents

Inspired by the recent Centre Court action at Wimbledon? Fancy yourself as the next Cameron Norrie or Emma Raducanu? Now could be the perfect time to find out what tennis is all about, as national sports charity, Tennis for Free, with the support of the Lawn Tennis Association (LTA), is serving up an ace for local communities in Buckinghamshire, with the launch of a new venue, in High Wycombe, offering free coach-led tennis sessions for adults and children aged 12+.

In an exciting partnership with the council, the LTA and Tennis for Free will now provide free tennis sessions for individuals, families and carers at three locations in Bucks:

  • Desborough Recreation Ground, High Wycombe – Saturday 1.30-2.30pm
  • Bedgrove Park, Aylesbury – Saturday 4-5pm
  • Vale Park, Aylesbury – check website for details

The aims of the scheme are to get more people playing tennis and improving the physical and mental wellbeing of members of the local community. Schemes have been running in Aylesbury since 2019 but the venue in High Wycombe has just started.

Tennis For Free Co-founder Patrick Hollwey explained more, he said: “Together with the LTA, we are helping to make tennis more accessible to more people by removing the cost barrier that some sections of the community face, so that the entire community can play and benefit physically, mentally and socially.”

“We have created specially designed programmes to welcome families, carers and people of all ages and any ability, Tennis improves people’s mental health and TFF playing group games enhances this further. The beauty is that each session is led by qualified tennis coaches who will ensure people develop at their own pace.”

Town and Parish Charter

In line with the establishment of the new Buckinghamshire Council, we wanted to take the opportunity to strengthen our relationship with all councils across the county. I recognise the important role local Town and Parish councils play within the communities we all serve. You are key partners for us, sharing many of our own ambitions to improve our communities. 

There has been an ongoing programme of work in the last few years and, following discussion and consultations on earlier iterations, we have developed a charter that demonstrates and articulates our commitment to work and communicate effectively with you, which we hope in turn will help cement strengthened relationships.

The charter has been published on our website and will be shared widely across the council. You can view the charter online or download a PDF copy.

Alongside the charter itself, we have produced an action plan that will enable us to deliver and embed our outlined commitments.

The charter will be subject to an annual review which will of course be done in consultation with you all. Cabinet Members and senior officers will be accountable to the Localism and Communities Select Committee to ensure that the commitments made in the charter are upheld. We hope you enjoy reading it and we would be interested to hear your thoughts and comments on it.

New Guardian’s Guide website launches

Buckinghamshire Council has launched a unique website to support people who may be taking on the role of a Special Guardian in a child or young person’s life. The innovative ‘Guardian’s Guide’ website – makes it easy for guardians and parents involved in Special Guardianship Orders to gain access to a variety of helpful information, advice and support.

A special guardian is a person who looks after a child or young person who cannot live with their birth parents or who isn’t suitable for adoption. The child can maintain a relationship with their birth family, but the guardian – usually a family member – is responsible for looking after the child and all day-to-day decisions until they are 18.  

In Buckinghamshire the number of children being cared for by special guardians is rising every year. The number of Special Guardianship Orders being granted for Buckinghamshire children is currently outstripping the number of Adoption Orders, so having easy, accessible information for people new to Special Guardianship is vital.

Council employs green technology to repair dama

The programme of work started earlier this month. In three phases, it will tackle some of the ‘failing roads’ where the filling and refilling of potholes is not enough to maintain the road surface to an adequate standard. These are generally more rural roads, originally simple tracks, that were never designed to carry the amount of traffic they now do. As traffic levels have increased over the years, the road surfaces have deteriorated and foundations subsided to such an extent that normal plane and patch repair work is not enough.

The works form part of the council’s £100m, four-year, Investing in your Roads programme. The council’s highways engineers identified the locations for this latest programme following technical assessments on site, in combination with identifying those roads which will not be tackled by external organisations as part of their work, such as HS2 or East West Rail. The technical assessments were used to rank all the roads previously highlighted as needing attention, into an order. Those receiving the highest scores were given priority to be included in the first phase of works.

The repair work is carried out using a process called Regen. It has been trialled previously in other parts of the county. Crews break up the existing road surface. These materials are then pulverised on site, spread out and compacted to create a level surface. A small amount of cement mixed with water, binds the materials together and creates a solid structure. The surface is then covered with bitumen and stone chippings, sealing it to prevent water getting in. The process is specifically designed for rural roads with a relatively low volume of traffic and would not be suitable on bigger roads with higher traffic flows.

The use of the new technique has multiple benefits:

  • The whole process is significantly quicker than alternatives so reducing the inconvenience for local residents and road users
  • It has a direct impact on improved air quality as there is no need to use hot asphalt
  • By reusing materials instead of taking them away from the site by vehicle, it helps reduce our carbon footprint
  • Using fewer materials also brings about significant savings. The cost is £22-£28 per square metre compared to £75-£100 per square metre for more conventional methods

Councillor Derek Town