Recent years have seen what many might think is an unusual and certainly unwelcome surge in massive housing developments proposed around Aylesbury – there is, however, a simple explanation.
Before the coalition came to power, the district council was expected to find room for 26,000 new homes in the Vale, 10,000 of them around Aylesbury, as part of the South East Plan.
Following the last election, the new Government said it would scrap this target and allow the council to set its own. However, despite a recent announcement reaffirming this, the plan has not been revoked and holds sway.
As a result, developers have moved in to try to build on land before the 26,000 target is replaced with the district council’s own, of 13,500 (8,400 in the Aylesbury area), known as the Vale of Aylesbury Plan.
Described by some as a planning ‘black hole’, the council admits it is not an ideal situation.
John Byrne, heading of planning at Aylesbury Vale District Council, said: “There’s a big difference between the plan numbers. That’s undoubtedly had an effect on the applications we have received.
“Developers have a window of opportunity that they’re seeking to use. I don’t encourage that and I’m not supportive of it, but they are acting legally.”
Three major developments around Aylesbury have been approved: 3,235 homes at Berryfields; 1,035 at Weedon Hill; and 2,450 to the east of Aylesbury in the Bierton/Broughton area.
Two others, for 3,000 homes between Bedgrove and Weston Turville and 2,745 at Fleet Marston, are to be decided on appeal, while plans for 1,560 homes between Watermead and Bierton have also been submitted.
Should we still be operating under the South East Plan, this might be cause for major concern. However, Mr Byrne is convinced by the time decisions are taken, the Vale plan will hold the most sway.
He said: “It is inconceivable that the South East Plan won’t be gone by the time we get to the appeal.
“Under the Vale plan we only need Aylesbury East [Bierton/Broughton] and then 800 more. There are other sites that can make that up. It doesn’t need to be a big site.”
These could include the proposed building of 73 homes in Buckingham Road and the Broughton Farming Partnership’s plan to build 135 homes on land near the Holiday Inn by the A41.
This would be more appealing to many, but the Vale of Aylesbury Plan must still undergo an independent examination. If it falls short in this, a higher target could be set and more large developments built.
The volume of large-scale applications has not just caused headaches for campaigners. Inside the planning department, at a time when councils are making cuts, it has also had an effect.
Mr Byrne said: “It’s certainly challenging to us in terms of the amount of work and schemes that we have got to handle.
“The council has got to balance its books, but balancing the books at a time when you’re very active isn’t easy. We have got to find better ways of working but we have still got to do the work that gets put to us, we can’t turn it down.”
By the end of 2013, we are certain to know a lot more about how the area surrounding Aylesbury is going to look.