Your questions answered
There maybe things in the local plan documents or the process that you may not understand. So we have compiled a list of questions and answers:
Additionally, we have compiled a list of key questions and issues which were raised at the event at the Princes Risborough consultation event on 17 March 2014, and our responses to these questions.
What is the New Local Plan?
The New Local Plan will set out how much land we need for new homes and jobs and identify the locations for where new development should take place up to the year 2031. It will also include a number of policies covering design of development, affordable housing, the historic environment, infrastructure and the Green Belt.
What about the Delivery and Site Allocations Plan?
We will keep the document we adopted in 2013 it includes policies on:
- town centres
- green infrastructure
- climate change
- infrastructure and delivery
Why are we preparing a new one?
In 2012 the government published the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) (external website). The NPPF requires local planning authorities like Wycombe District Council to support 'sustainable development' and to plan positively for it by updating their local plans. So that is what the council is now doing.
What will the plan cover?
The plan will set out the vision and strategy for where development should go in the district up to 2031 as well as more detailed proposals for where and how this should happen. This will include:
- continuing to protect the environment of the district
- setting out how many homes will need to be provided and identifying where those homes should go
- setting out how much land should be provided for new economic development including offices and industrial development and identifying the best places to locate the development
- identifying what infrastructure should be provided to support new development
- setting out individual site proposals for your local area
- detailed policies to manage development, building on the policies already set out in the Delivery and Site Allocations Plan
Do we have to make a plan
If we do not prepare a New Local Plan, we will not be planning positively for the future of our district and finding the most sustainable way of accommodating development. This means that we could lose control over how the district develops and grows in the future. Developers could propose development in locations that may not be the most appropriate and without the right policies in place the council may find it difficult to refuse them or may find that developers could successfully appeal against council decisions.
How much housing do we need?
We have not agreed a fixed a number, but it ranges from between approximately 10,000 and 14,000 new homes altogether or between 500 and 700 homes per year. Up to now we have been building between 400 and 450 homes per year.
Who are all the new homes for?
The new homes are mainly for own growing population as well as people coming to live in our district.
Where will they be built?
We haven't decided this yet and are asking you for your views about where the new homes should be built. We have identified six main options for where we can locate new homes, these are based on assessing areas within the district that are accessible to existing services and infrastructure, and considering constraints such as flood zones, landscape and biodiversity constraints and the Green Belt.
Housing and Economic Land Availability Assessment
The Housing and economic land availability assessment (HELAA) helps to identify future sources of land to help meet the District's development needs. It was formerly referred to as the Strategic housing land availability assessment (SHLAA).
An interim SHLAA was published in February 2014 as part of the Local Plan issues and options consultation. The consultation responses, including new site proposals, will form part of the next HELAA update, which is due to be published in autumn 2015.
Does the plan help the economy?
The plan will need to provide land for new business premises and we are asking about where the best locations for new businesses to go are. By meeting all our housing needs we will also be making sure we have enough people living here to tale up new jobs.
Are you planning for infrastructure as well?
We have asked a wide range of infrastructure providers to tell us what infrastructure will be needed and where it will be needed if we build this many new homes. This includes schools, roads, health facilities, water and sewage and other utilities.
Are you planning to build in the Green Belt?
To meet our identified needs we have to look at all the possible locations across the district, if we do not have enough land either brownfield or greenfield we will have to consider building in the green belt. If we do have to consider this we will review the green belt and consult on the results of that work.
Why have you identified Green Belt for new business land?
Our economy work has identified that to have the best chance of attracting commercial investment, land in the green belt close to Marlow and High Wycombe offers the best opportunity for creating new jobs.
What about flooding?
We have commissioned a district wide flood risk assessment to make sure we avoid those areas that are most at risk from flooding. There are strict tests we have to meet if we want build in the floodplain and we would only do this if it was the only possible option.
What are the Reserve Sites?
The reserve sites are areas of land that have been designated in our adopted Core Strategy (2008) to help meet the district's development needs at a future date. The principle of developing on them is accepted, the timing of when they are developed is dependent on the council being able to meet development needs on other sorts of land.
There are five reserve sites: Abbey Barn North, Abbey Barn South, Slate Meadow, Gomm Valley and Ashwells, and Terriers Farm.
How long have they been reserved?
The reserve sites have a long history of being reserved for future development, going back to when the Green Belt was first established in 1954. At that time there were areas of "white land" left out of the Green Belt to allow space for towns and villages to grow and to ensure that the Green Belt did not have to be amended on a regular basis to accommodate growth. Over time most of the white land has been developed.
Aren't they protected from development?
No they are protected for development, but the name has changed as we have produced new local plans over time reflecting changes in government policy. They have been known as White Land (1954), Areas of Special Restraint (1989), Safeguarded Land (2004) and Reserve Sites (2008). Some of these names could be misinterpreted as meaning that they are protected from development.
So how much development would go on the sites, when would it happen?
As part of the Local Plan Options consultation report earlier in the year we published some initial ideas on how the sites could be developed, how much housing they might accommodate and some initial thoughts on potential principles that development of the sites should address.
Why was the full junction 3 not built originally when the motorway was built?
At the time junction 3 was built, traffic forecasts at the time did not indicate a need for west-facing slips. It was felt that junction 4 and the local road network would supply that need. The engineering challenges of introducing west-facing slips on the current junction 3 would be considerable. When raised with the Highways Agency in the past, they have discouraged exploration of this option. There would also be safety issues with heavy vehicles joining the motorway on an uphill gradient.
Will there be an improvement in traffic from this development?
There will be both positive and negative impacts as adding a new link into the road network would open up alternative routes and spread the traffic flow in a different distribution which could have the effect of alleviating traffic in some areas.
What plans are there for replacing amenity areas which will be lost by the development?
If we lose an amenity such as a netball court we would be obliged to find a replacement amenity on a like for like basis.
Why can't we use more closed office blocks instead?
As part of our work for the local plan we have conducted a comprehensive review of blocks not occupied around the district. Some of these blocks are in places where business does not want to be so there would be a strong case, and we would be under pressure to allow these employment sites to go for housing. House builders will build almost anywhere, but the business market is more selective, looking for transport links etc. and often preferring major new sites for inward investment projects.