Three years after coalition took power, Eric Pickles finally moves to revoke South East Plan which imposed 26,000 new homes on Vale (but is it too late to stop mass development in the district?)

Eric Pickles and, below, the Hampden Fields plan and the proposed Fleet Marston site
Eric Pickles and, below, the Hampden Fields plan and the proposed Fleet Marston site

Local government secretary Eric Pickles has today (Thursday) announced that the previous Labour government’s South East Regional Strategy will be revoked.

The move has long been expected and paves the way for the district council’s Vale of Aylesbury Plan. This sets a minimum target of building 6,000 new homes and creating 6,000 new jobs across the district by 2031.

Hampden Fields

Hampden Fields

Despite this, two of the Vale’s biggest pending housing applications, for Fleet Marston and Hampden Fields, have gone to appeal and will be decided on by the Planning Inspectorate and not Aylesbury Vale District Council.

The South East plan was imposed by the old Labour government and stated that the council must plan for 26,000 homes in Aylesbury Vale by 2026, including 10,000 in Aylesbury.

After a lengthy consultation process, in 2010 the council put forward plans to build the 10,000 homes to the east of Aylesbury. The plan went to a public examination, where planning inspector Geoff Salter said he favoured development near Weston Turville and told the council to look at the possibility of combining that with a site in Fleet Marston and one other site. Mr Salter also said he had serious concerns about plans to build new homes to the north and south of Bierton.

But as Mr Salter delivered his initial verdict on the strategy, the coalition took power and promised to scrap the South East Plan. Since then the council has been working on its own Vale of Aylesbury Plan, setting out how many homes it wants to be built in the district.

A11 Week 18'MCBH'DP'View from St Marys Church at Fleet Marston looking out across the countryside

A11 Week 18'MCBH'DP'View from St Marys Church at Fleet Marston looking out across the countryside

In a written ministerial statement, Mr Pickles said revoking the strategy was a ‘significant step for localism’.

He said: “When the order comes into force, it will mean that development plans across the former south east government office region will comprise local plans, and where they exist, neighbourhood plans.

“Localised planning enables councils to make the development choices that work for them; choices that are right for their communities and respond to the needs of the local area rather than to arbitrary top-down targets.

“This presents a far better deal for local people.”

Aylesbury MP David Lidington welcomed the announcement. He said: “It will give more responsibility to elected local councillors to decide how much development we need and where it should take place.”

Councillor Phil Yerby, who has campaigned against the Hampden Fields development, said: “This is the first battle in ensuring that Aylesbury is not overrun with housing development before its infrastructure can catch up. I am sure the council will now be putting in place its local plan as soon as possible.”

District councillors threw out plans for 2,750 homes in Fleet Marston last summer, but the applicant appealed against the decision.

The application for 3,000 homes at Hampden Fields, between Bedgrove and Weston Turville, was due to be discussed by the council but in December the consortium behind the plan applied for non-determination, meaning the Planning Inspectorate will have the final say.

The Hampden Fields consortium, comprising Aylesbury College, the Fairfield Partnership and Taylor Wimpey, said it would prefer the council to make the decision but that it wanted its plan to be heard alongside the Fleet Marston application.

A date for the appeals to be heard has not yet been set.

The building of 2,450 homes near Bierton and Broughton, an area Mr Salter had serious concerns about in 2010, has been approved.