“Misleading” Slough should “consume its own smoke” before talk of Garden Suburb say Chilterns and South Bucks
A “Slough to consume its own smoke” option to meeting unmet housing need has not been given enough consideration before pushing the idea for a ‘garden suburb’ on South Bucks’ Green Belt, says a strongly worded report which also accuses Slough of “misleading the public”.
South Bucks and Chiltern District Councils have hit out at Slough Borough Council’s plans to build 5,000 homes on Green Belt in their areas in a strongly worded response that also accuses Slough of “misleading the public”.
The 10-page report issued just over a week ago has been issued in response to Slough’s Issues and Options paper published in January, and comes following meetings between officers of all three councils – the most recent of which was three weeks ago.
While the paper “welcomes” Slough Borough Council’s work towards preparing a new Local Plan it clearly signals some unhappiness that no progress has been made on moving forward with a Memorandum of Understanding, a mechanism to agree how the councils will work together, since December – which it blames Slough for.
The legal Duty to Co-operate requires local authorities to engage constructively, actively and on an on-going basis … We therefore do not consider that Slough BC have at this stage met the Duty to Co-operate
Nevetheless the two neighbouring councils are angry at the inclusion of proposals for a “garden suburb” in South Bucks and says that Slough had no right to propose it. It also has made clear the lengths that it will go to to defend the Green Belt:
“The NPPF is very clear that once established, Green Belt boundaries should only be altered in exceptional circumstances and must be fully justified as part of a plan-making process. NPPG has clarified how Green Belt may affect the ability of an area to meet housing need”.
While Slough planners have said the ‘Duty to Cooperate’ requires councils to work together to solve housing shortages, the South Bucks and Chilterns report accuses the council of acting “in a unilateral way outside the Duty to Cooperate”. It says:
“The legal Duty to Co-operate requires local authorities to engage constructively, actively and on an on-going basis in respect of plan-making so far as it relates to a strategic matter. Large-scale housing development on Green Belt within South Bucks District to meet Slough BC’s needs is clearly a strategic, cross-boundary matter. We therefore do not consider that Slough BC have at this stage met the Duty to Co-operate in this respect”.
… given the early stage in the plan-making process, it would be reasonable for a ‘Slough to consume its own smoke’ option to be considered further …
The report says:
- Since Local Plan risks being rejected as unsound as it has proposed building its garden suburb outside its administrative boundaries – and does not enjoy support from South Bucks.
- South Bucks and the Chilterns have already considered the release of this Green Belt land and rejected it – for the harm it would cause, and likelihood of falling foul of the Government’s NPPF rules.
- South Bucks has already determined it cannot accommodate its own unmet housing need and has come to an arrangement with Aylesbury Vale to provide this. It can, therefore, not accommodate Slough’s overspill.
- Slough has not yet “met the requirement to test a full range of reasonable options” for addressing its shortfall before concluding that other authorities must provide this instead. It says “it would be reasonable for a ‘Slough to consume its own smoke’ option to be considered further.
The report accuses Slough of “misleading the public” by consulting on the garden suburb option supported by a draft transport strategy that has been prepared without any input from South Bucks, and without sharing any meaningful evidence.