Buckinghamshire Councillors Report – Sept 22

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.

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.

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.

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 the commitment to work and communicate effectively with residents.

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.

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.

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 damaged roads

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 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

 New planning guidance for the Vale of Aylesbury unveiled

Buckinghamshire Council launched a consultation on three important planning guidance documents that, once adopted, will inform planning and development decisions in the former Aylesbury Vale district area.

These documents, known as supplementary planning documents (SPDs), provide detailed advice and guidance on policies in the Vale of Aylesbury Local Plan which was adopted by the council in September 2021.

The consultation will be open until 2 November 2022. Individuals and organisations are invited to give their views on the following documents:

Aylesbury Garden Town – South Aylesbury Masterplan

This masterplan document is intended to guide landowners, developers, the public and the local planning authority in respect of environmental, social, economic and design objectives for the planning and development of the South Aylesbury area of the Aylesbury Garden Town, situated within Stoke Mandeville civil parish.

Affordable Housing SPD

This document provides further planning guidance on how affordable housing policy should be applied to proposals for residential development within the Aylesbury Vale local plan area.

Design SPD

The aim of the design supplementary planning document is to ensure that new development across Aylesbury Vale is of the highest quality, is in context with its location, and is inclusive and sustainable. The document sets out clear principles and objectives that aim to inspire developers and designers and assist landowners, developers, applicants and planners in the process of delivering high quality and well-designed development.

Update on move to new single system for revenues and benefits

In August, Buckinghamshire Council began the process of moving to a new and improved single system for managing council tax, business rates and benefits – merging the former district council systems into one.

The Chiltern and South Bucks systems were taken offline as planned on 15 August and the council has now converted the South Bucks and Chiltern council tax, business rates and housing benefit data and moved it to its new format.

The next step begins today (22 September), when the Aylesbury and Wycombe system (that was merged last November) is taken offline and all the data merged into one system which will be live on 27 October. One single system will then be available to all of Buckinghamshire residents and businesses.

Get your veg on with Grow It, Cook It, Eat It

Buckinghamshire Council supported ‘Grow It, Cook It, Eat It’ initiative helps residents in times of hardship to put nutritious and fresh food on their table. As the number of food parcels distributed to households in Buckinghamshire reached 13,718 in the first six months of 2022, many residents are looking for help to find affordable and healthy solutions and alternatives. Grow It, Cook It, Eat It is a community-led project that focuses on growing healthy produce, meanwhile educating local residents about maintaining and harvesting crops to allow people to grow their own food.

There is no cost or membership to visit one of the growing sites, and very little to no commitment – anyone can visit when they have spare time. What doesn’t get taken home from the allotments is donated back to the community.

If you’re a grower and sometimes find yourself with excess fruit and vegetables you can also give back to those in your community who need it via the Grow to Give project, where surplus produce from local allotments and gardens goes towards helping the community via local food banks to help households who may need extra support to access healthy and nutritious foods.

The Grow to Give project has been running in Aylesbury and High Wycombe since 2020, linked to local food banks and was recently launched in Amersham with residents waiting at the door of the council building at 10am to collect fresh produce. Check the Grow to Give website to find your nearest donation allotment site and free access to recipes and cooking videos.

The Grow it Cook it Eat it initiative also provides free cooking sessions delivered by our fully trained Volunteer Cooking Tutors who will link in with their local Grow It, Cook It, Eat It community growing site. Each site has its own dedicated Expert Gardener who is on-hand to offer help and guidance about how to get started with growing your own food.

Welcoming Spaces give a warm reception to all

Buckinghamshire Council’s latest measure to offer ‘a helping hand’ to support local residents with the cost of living crisis this winter, is the introduction of Buckinghamshire’s Welcoming Spaces.

The council is pledging to develop a network of Welcoming Spaces offering a variety of facilities around the county, with local partner organisations, where residents can come into safe and inclusive spaces, free of charge, to stay warm and enjoy a little company.

The scheme is kick-starting with the launch of Buckinghamshire’s libraries and community libraries as the first of the Welcoming Spaces venues. Visitors will be welcome for as long as they wish during opening hours and can make use of facilities including free wifi and computer access. Library staff will also be on hand to offer information and support to visitors struggling with the effects of the cost of living crisis.

More information on the Welcoming Spaces scheme can be found on the council website.

Household recycling centres switch to winter hours

​Buckinghamshire Council’s nine household recycling centres switch to winter opening hours on Saturday 1 October. The new opening hours will be 9am to 4pm.

The household recycling centres will be operating the same days as normal, as only the opening hours are changing, due to the reduced number of visits to the centres after 4pm.

Councillor Derek Town 

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