Not in our back yard: Slough should build its ‘Garden Suburb’ in Windsor not South Bucks

If Slough should expand at all it should expand into Windsor, not South Bucks … says South Bucks.

Slough continues to grow higher but it says it needs to spread out as well to meet growth projections for the next 20 years. This development above the Queensmere shopping centre will see 675 new homes built in five blocks, some up to 24 storeys high.

Slough continues to grow higher but it says it needs to spread out as well to meet growth projections for the next 20 years. This development above the Queensmere shopping centre will see 675 new homes built in five blocks, some up to 24 storeys high.

Slough Borough Council should ditch its stated preference for a northern expansion of the town into South Bucks, and look to expand west or south instead.  In particular, Slough has failed to properly explore expansion options in the Royal Borough of Windsor & Maidenhead where there is land available for development.

That’s the view expressed by South Bucks and Chilterns district councils, in the same report in which it suggested Slough should fully consider a “Slough to consume its own smoke” option before using the legal obligations to force unmet housing need on its neighbours.

In any case, by partnering with Chilterns District Council, South Bucks believes it can distance itself from any Duty to Cooperate on housing – and has declared itself to be more aligned “functionally” with the towns of Aylesbury and Wycombe than Slough.

South Bucks District falls partly within both the central Buckinghamshire and the Berkshire-wide housing and economic market areas.  However it argues that, because it is preparing a joint local plan with Chiltern District Council, its best fit overall is within Bucks alone for housing, serving an economic area comprising Aylesbury Vale, Chiltern, South Bucks and Wycombe.

… we cannot endorse a Berkshire housing market area geography that includes South Bucks District for plan-making purposes. Nor do we recognise a geography that defines an Eastern Berkshire Housing Market Area, whether that includes or excludes South Bucks District

It has formally requested that Slough Borough Council should go back to the drawing board and reconsider options based around the Berkshire housing and economic market geography (which includes Slough, Bracknell Forest, Reading, West Berkshire, Windsor & Maidenhead, and Wokingham) alone.

The West of Berkshire Spatial Planning Framework

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The West of Berkshire Spatial Planning Framework includes four of the six Berkshire councils.  Windsor & Maidenhead and Slough are not included.  Nevertheless, Slough should be looking west to accommodate its unmet need.

The West of Berkshire Spatial Planning Framework was jointly issued by Bracknell Forest, Reading Borough, West Berkshire and Wokingham Borough councils in December, but exluded Windsor & Maidenhead and Slough Borough councils.  Its four strategies for future housing development were:

  • Major housing and mixed use development at Grazeley/Mortimer, south of Reading;
  • A focus on town centre/commuter hub development at Bracknell, Reading, Newbury and Wokingham;
  • Infrastructure investment at Twyford Station to support Crossrail; and
  • Sites that span the Bracknell Forest and Wokingham boundary.

The submission from Chilterns and South Bucks Councils to planners at Slough, also says:

  • Slough has failed to robustly challenge Windsor & Maidenhead on a number of matters relevant to accommodating unmet housing needs.
  • There has been insufficient exploration of options within Western Berkshire for meeting unmet housing needs arising in Slough.
  • Slough has chosen to ignore the Western Berkshire Spatial Planning Framework published in December 2016 which identified four strategic opportunities to meet identified future development needs in western Berkshire.

The report has been particularly critical of Windsor & Maidenhead’s approach to its own search for sites, claiming that it has ignored potential sites that could be used to accomodate Slough’s unmet need.  The Royal Borough, the two councils argue, misunderstood the role of a Green Belt assessment carried out last year, and stopped its search for potential development sites prematurely – once it had identified sufficient sites to fully meet its own demand for housing:

“We are of the opinion that the Royal Borough’s methodology has confused the purpose of a Green Belt assessment with the consideration of suitability of land for development and development potential and there does not appear to have been a comprehensive review of edge of settlement areas. The Royal Borough effectively stopped looking for Green Belt options once it had identified sufficient land to meet its own objectively assessed development needs”.

Slough’s Issues and Options consultation ended on 27th February.  The Council will use the results to develop a ‘Preferred Option’ plan over Spring and Summer 2017 with more detailed evidence gathering, testing, and discussion with Duty to Cooperate partners.

The Council intend to consult on the Preferred Option Plan in Autumn/Winter 2017.

 

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