Council calls for government meeting over homes plan ‘agenda’

AVDC leader Neil Blake
AVDC leader Neil Blake

Council chiefs have asked for a meeting with the Government after the district’s housing plan was rejected.

Councillor Neil Blake, Aylesbury Vale District Council leader, said he fears there is a hidden ‘government agenda’ behind the decision, which could means thousands more homes are built in the area than predicted.

The Vale of Aylesbury Plan, which a government inspector has said is ‘unsound’, set a target of building 13,850 new homes by 2031.

AVDC chiefs now fear this target could have to increase to more than 20,000.

Opposition leaders have called for ‘heads to roll’ at the council following the plan’s failure, but the ruling Conservatives say they have done nothing wrong.

Mr Blake said he has spoken with Aylesbury MP David Lidington about setting up a meeting with planning minister Nick Bowles MP to discuss the situation.

Mr Blake said: “The housing and jobs figures that were put forward in the plan followed the so-called localism agenda of the Government.

“We knew residents did not want thousands more houses, as our infrastructure especially our roads could not cope with them.

“We believe there may instead be a government agenda.

“The whole scenario seems really odd especially when there is speculation going around about the Government having plans for two new towns in the south east.

“We will at this meeting (with Mr Bowles) ask him if there is indeed an agenda and we will press him and will continue to press the Government on behalf of the residents of Aylesbury Vale for the infrastructure investment we will need from government in order to give residents of the Vale the quality of environment, transport and facilities they truly deserve.”

The council leader also warned that the Vale is now being expected to take housing overspill from neighbouring districts, including Luton, Milton Keynes, Wycombe and London, in addition to more than 19,000 that the Vale needs.

Mr Blake also rejected claims that AVDC had failed to cooperate with nearby councils when creating its plan.

He said: “Places like Bedford and Luton don’t even know what their housing requirement is yet and places like Chiltern won’t even start to look at their housing numbers for over a year.

“Perhaps we needed to invest in a crystal ball?

“We had a provision in our plan to revise numbers when other authorities had prepared their plans. This has been totally ignored by the inspector.

“We had joint working groups made up of officers and members on the VAP.

“It was never a case of this council not co-operating with other local authorities.”

Liberal Democrat and Labour leaders at AVDC have said strategic planning chief, Councillor Carole Paternoster, must ‘fall on her sword’.

But Mrs Paternoster this week ruled out quitting her £10,608-per-year cabinet post.

A special council meeting is to be held on January 27 to discuss the situation.