From 7 July to 5 September, Aylesbury Vale District Council (AVDC) will be consulting on their latest draft of the Vale of Aylesbury Local Plan (VALP) and are inviting comments from local residents and other interested parties on any aspect of the draft.
Scroll down to read more about:
- what the VALP is, and why it is important for all of us;
- the consultation exercise that AVDC is carrying out; and
- Pitstone Parish Council’s views on the latest draft of the VALP.
What is the VALP and why is it important?
The VALP is the district-level Local Plan which sets out AVDC’s vision for delivering growth in the District up to 2033. Most importantly it is the document which, in conjunction with Neighbourhood Plans such as ours, will be used to determine planning applications (and all other planning-related matters) throughout the Vale. The VALP replaces the ill-fated Vale of Aylesbury Plan (VAP) which was withdrawn by AVDC in February 2014 and will, once adopted, formally replaced the rather elderly Aylesbury Vale District Local Plan (AVDLP) which dates back to 2004 and only certain parts of which still apply.
AVDC’s consultation exercise
The consultation exercise runs from 7 July to 5 September and we would encourage all residents to take part in it.
To inform the process, AVDC are running a number of consultation drop-in sessions throughout the summer.
|Monday 11 July||Haddenham||Village Hall Social Centre||11am to 8pm|
|Wednesday 13 July||Buckingham||Community Centre||11am to 8pm|
|Thursday 14 July||Aylesbury||Friars Square Shopping Centre||10am to 5pm|
|Wednesday 27 July||Newton Longville||Village Hall 2 Paradise||10.30am to 7.30pm|
|Thursday 4 August||Wendover||St Anne’s Hall||11am to 8pm|
|Friday 5 August||Aylesbury||Friars Square Shopping Centre||10am to 5pm|
|Wednesday 10 August||Winslow||Public Hall Elmfields Gate||10am to 6pm|
|Thursday 1 September||Weedon||Bucks County Showground||8.30am to 4.30pm|
Whether or not you are able to visit one of these sessions, you can find out more about the draft VALP – in particular the background to it, and its policies on housing, transport, and environment – on the AVDC website: http://www.aylesburyvaledc.gov.uk/vale-aylesbury-local-plan-draft-plan.
AVDC’s website also explains how you can respond to the consultation exercise and comment on the latest draft of the VALP. This is your opportunity to influence any part of the Plan that is important to you, before it goes in front of the Government’s Planning Inspectorate during Spring 2017. The Parish Council will naturally, in due course, also be responding to the consultation.
Pitstone Parish Council’s views
(NB. The synopsis which follows is based on a version of the draft VALP that had still to be presented to various AVDC scrutiny committees for approval during late June. It is possible that the VALP ultimately published for consultation may differ from the version which existed at the time of writing. This article will be updated to the extent necessary when AVDC confirm the final draft.)
The VALP is positive for Pitstone
The Parish Council’s initial view is that the latest draft of the VALP is a positive one for Pitstone. This is particularly so given the high level of support within the village for our own Neighbourhood Plan that 97% of you voted in favour of adopting back in March. The policies of the emerging VALP remain closely aligned with those of our own Plan, which reflects well on both the VALP and the neighbourhood planning process that we recently went through.
In various ways the VALP expressly seeks to achieve the same objectives that you voted in favour of – objectives such as protecting the “areas of special landscape value” south of the immediate centre of our village, and ensuring that sites designated for employment purposes (such as the ‘data hub’ site on Westfield Road) are not given over to additional housing. In addition the VALP strongly resists development in open countryside that is not adjacent to an existing settlement; and it is based on a detailed “land availability assessment” which reaches the same conclusions as our Neighbourhood Plan steering group during 2015, namely that the various greenfield sites which adjoin our village are also unsuitable for housing.
In other respects the VALP supports the policies and objectives of our Neighbourhood Plan in an indirect manner, by leaving numerous detailed “non-strategic” local matters that are consistent with the VALP’s objectives to the neighbourhood plan itself. This means that our NP will continue to be the primary point of reference in respect of matters such as:
- the settlement boundary of our village;
- its community facilities;
- the ‘design principles’ to be applied to any new housing that is built in the village; and
- protecting designated “local green spaces” such as the land opposite The Crescent;
What about housing numbers?
The one area where the VALP has caused some confusion is the amount of new housing envisaged for villages such as Pitstone. The VALP as a whole contains lots of housing numbers that are connected with the esoteric objective of achieving a “five-year housing land supply” across the Vale – a complex mathematical process based primarily on statistical assumptions. The important number for any village to focus on is its “residual housing number” (the amount it is actually expected to provide) which, for Pitstone, is 166 new homes.
The Parish Council recognises that, as this target does not include the Rushendon Furlong expansion (c.40 houses) for which outline planning permission has already been granted, it could result in Pitstone having a slightly higher new homes target than the 170 that were envisaged in the Neighbourhood Plan. This increase can be attributed to two things.
- Housing targets in the VALP are no longer expressed as a fixed number (the previous draft, dated October 2015, specified 100 new homes for every “larger village” such as Pitstone) but, instead, on the basis of a percentage uplift to current housing numbers in any particular village.
- 12,000 of AVDC’s total of 33,000 new homes are required because of “unsatisfied need” in other Districts: in other words AVDC’s target, which would otherwise be just 21,000 new houses, is being increased by more than 50% because other nearby District Councils (such as High Wycombe) are building fewer new homes than they should be.
Equally, the VALP makes it clear that any housing target it lays down for any particular village is on the assumption that sufficient land is available – and it expressly recognises that, in some cases, it won’t be. The Parish Council’s view is that our Neighbourhood Plan clearly demonstrates how, save for the land intended to take our 170 new homes, no other suitable sites exist; and this is something we will be conveying to AVDC when commenting on the current draft of the VALP.
It is also important to remember that the VALP, and the requirements it lays down about housing numbers, are still in draft and subject to both consultation and further refinement. AVDC have already indicated that they will be robustly seeking to minimise the additional housing required across the Vale (and, in turn, in individual villages such as ours) as a consequence of other Districts failing to take their fair share. In its response the Parish Council will also be seeking to ensure, as best it can, that the interests of our village are protected to the maximum possible extent. The many positive aspects of the VALP for Pitstone and its environs should, of course, also not be forgotten as work progresses on turning it into a robust, sustainable Plan for the Vale as a whole.