Planning chief warns of higher housing targets for Aylesbury Vale after council plan rejected

John Byrne, Head of Planning AVDC
John Byrne, Head of Planning AVDC

The Vale’s planning chief has delivered a stark warning to politicians about the implications of the district’s housing plan being thrown out.

In a note to councillors seen by The Bucks Herald, John Byrne warned a higher target than the 6,000 proposed by the council in its Vale of Aylesbury Plan would have to be set.

He added that they would be exposed to ‘planning by appeal’ effectively meaning that unpopular housing developments are much more likely to gain approval.

Aylesbury Vale District Council has to go back to the drawing board for its housing and jobs targets after the plan was judged unsound by an independent government inspector.

Opposition leaders have called for ‘heads to roll’ in wake of the announcement.

In his note, the council’s head of planning Mr Byrne wrote: “Given the inspector’s comments on the assessment of our own ‘local’ needs and the requirement to respond to what is emerging from other authorities, it is inevitable that we will have to plan for a higher level of growth and this is highly likely to be rather more fundamental than the 6,000/9,000 additional houses debated by members in the summer of 2012.”

The 6,000 target in the Vale plan was in addition to homes that have already been given planning permission, setting an overall figure of 13,850 by 2031. However, the inspector said this was too low.

Mr Byrne also warned that the scrapping of the plan could mean the council recommending developments for approval it would not otherwise have done. This is because the Vale plan has been used as one of the main reasons for rejecting major applications that do not fit within its targets.

Mr Bryne said: “Given the changes to guidance since we started work on VAP and that we are likely to have to be planning for higher housing numbers, this time we will have to include allocated sites and development management policies rather than dealing with these later.

“Given the inspector’s findings we will need to better link in with the work of other authorities who are at a different stage in their plan-making cycle.

“All this will not be a quick process and we will work on developing a work programme as soon as possible.

“In the meantime we will be exposed to ‘planning by appeal’ and in consequence we may well have to bring recommendations to [the planning committees] that we would not have done before the inspector’s findings.

“There are also likely to be implications for the neighbourhood plans currently at an advanced stage (especially Winslow and Buckingham) as they were based on the housing numbers and distribution in VAP.”

The council is expected to officially withdraw the plan at its next full meeting on February 5.