New local plan explained
Draft Local Plan consultation Summer 2016
We are consulting on the draft local plan for the district. This consultation will run for six weeks, concluding in early August.
The consultation draws together all the work we have been doing since the February 2014 options consultation, and give you an opportunity to shape the Local Plan before we finalise it towards the end of 2016.
On 18 May 2016 we held a briefing session for our stakeholders. At this session there was an early preview of the likely content of the draft plan.
Please note that the final decision on the detailed content of the plan had not yet been made so what is presented in the presentation is subject to change.
About the Local Plan
We are working on a long term plan for the district called the Wycombe District Local Plan. The plan will recognise the high environmental quality of the district and set out where best to accommodate the homes, jobs and infrastructure we need in the most sustainable way.
Prosperity and posterity
We need your help. Our District is facing a big challenge. We need to build many more homes and provide more jobs for local people. We need to work out how to do this together.
The landscape of the District is beautiful and we have many attractive towns and villages. For many years, the Council has been striving to ensure that new development is of high quality too. In 2013, we finalised our approach for our town centres to keep what is good about our town centres, and, particularly in High Wycombe, to transform it into a much better place. We will be continuing to implement this.
But now we are facing a new challenge. For the last decade, an average of 400-450 homes have been built a year in the District. Because of Government reforms to planning, we now need to build 500-700 a year. We have to cooperate with other authorities, but there is no certainty whatsoever that others will provide homes that are needed for this District.
We also need to attract new businesses, to stem the decline in jobs. Handy Cross Hub is a good start, but we need to do more otherwise there will be more and more commuting.
So we need to find places to build more homes, and places to work, and we need your views to work out the best - the most sustainable - places for these to go in the District as a whole.
These will be hard choices, and there will, of course, be consequences. Some places will change. But we will make sure that development is of the highest quality it can be, and that infrastructure improvements benefit local people too. If we don't prepare the plan the population will still grow, but there may be fewer new houses, with risks of overcrowding. Jobs will continue to
decline. Development will still happen. But it will be on sites favoured by developers, not necessarily in the most sustainable places.
We are therefore inviting you to put forward your views, ideas and concerns so that, together, we can both nurture our growth and cherish our environment.
What is the Local Plan?
It's a long term plan to 2031. It recognises the high environmental quality of the District and sets out where best to accommodate the homes, jobs and infrastructure we need in the most sustainable way.
What happens if we don't make the plan?
If we don't produce a Local Plan, we will lose the opportunity to inform how and where development happens. Crucially, it also means that planning decisions will be taken out of our hands and we won't be able to manage growth to get the best for our communities.
The 'big challenge plan'
We need to build 500-700 homes a year, and find new places for business too. The solutions to the challenge will be complex. But the challenge itself is simple: how do we maintain and improve our quality environment and provide infrastructure, homes and jobs?
The Chilterns AONB covers 71% of the District. We have protected this, and other greenfields that are valued locally, over the last 10 years by building mostly inside towns. But those sites are running out.
We have also been heavily committed to tackling climate change by, for example, requiring renewable energy in new development. We don't want to undermine this by allowing commuting to increase, with the decline of local jobs and the CO2 emissions that would result.
The quality of the places we live in, and of the global environment, matters to us all, and must be our overriding concern. There is no point in building homes and new places to work in a way that our children would regret. But neither can we use that as an excuse for doing nothing - as our children would also regret not having local homes and jobs.
If new development needs new infrastructure, it has to be funded by the development. This can often be provided in a way that gives benefits to local people too - such as a new open space, an expansion to a school, or improved transport.
We have been used to building about 400-450 homes a year. This did not meet our needs. Other places in the south-east region made up the difference. Now the starting point is we must meet all our needs, including from our growing local population and taking account of people moving in and out of the District. This may be as many as 500-700 homes a year.
Although it has lost jobs in recent years, the District still has a healthy economy. We need to protect existing employment land to retain jobs, but we also need to make sure we are well placed to take advantage of opportunities for growth, by finding new land for new businesses. High Wycombe and Marlow are generally where businesses want to be.
Why do we have to plan for a growing population?
All across England, councils are expected to plan for growth. The government says every council must work out how many homes and jobs are needed and plan to meet all of these predicted needs.
Planning for growth is also the right thing to do as everyone has the right to live in a decent home, and have a place to work.
What happens next?
We've set out some of the options we are considering for the Local Plan. Keep reading to find out what they would mean for your local area.
Options at a glance...
To ensure that we provide jobs for future generations within the District, we will need to find new land for businesses. Due to a lack of other options, this is likely to be in the Green Belt.
Possible places for business growth are:
- Land north of Heath End Road ('Junction 3A')
- Westhorpe Interchange in Marlow
- Wycombe Air Park
- Gomm Valley and Abbey Barn South, and
- Buckmaster Playing fields
The options we are considering are set out below. We may not be able to choose between the options, but may have to decide on how many homes each one provides.
Due to the amount of growth we need to provide for (500-700 a year), we know we need to do options 1 to 3. We still need to do a lot more work on options 4 to 6.
1. Build in towns: We have done lots of this already and there aren't many suitable sites left to build on. Also, we need to keep our business sites to provide jobs for local people.
2. Build on previously developed sites in the countryside: These are previously developed sites, but isolated in the countryside. It could mean lots of extra traffic and homes being built far from services.
3. Build on our greenfield reserve sites
These sites are reserved for new homes and jobs, and we need to start making plans for them to come forward. But we know that they need to be planned extremely carefully, and we would like your views on the best way of doing this.
4. Expanding villages: We could build small numbers of homes on the edge of villages.
5. Green Belt review: We could reassess the land at the edge of, and between, our towns and villages, to see if any of it would be better used to help deal with our very challenging growth needs. We think the main place to do this assessment is the south-east of the District, which is not in the Chilterns AONB.
6. Expanding Princes Risborough: Unlike most areas of Wycombe District, the western side of Princes Risborough is not designated as either Green Belt or part of the Chilterns AONB. Therefore it could be a suitable place to cater for growth. This would be a major expansion of the town so we would like to hear your views.
7. Expanding other settlements and 8. New settlement
We have looked at whether we could expand other places in the rural parts of Wycombe District, or even build a new settlement. However, we don't think any of these are likely to offer sustainable solutions.