Slough Council on collision course with ALL its neighbours on accommodating town’s expansion

Slough Borough Council has outlined its intention to mount challenges against ALL the Local Plans being progressed by neighbouring authorities in a bid to force them to observe their legally required Duty To Co-operate … and accommodate Slough’s unmet housing need.

slough

Slough is set to challenge the Local Plans of all its neighbouring authorities.

Slough Borough Council says it is continuing to make progress on its new Local Plan and is on track for its next public consultation by the end of the year. However, beyond that, the Third Runway decision and a disagreement with South Bucks Council on accommodating a northern expansion of the town could derail further progress in 2017.

In addition, officers at the Planning Department have outlined their desire to mount a challenge against the Local Plans being drawn up by Windsor & Maidenhead, Chiltern & South Bucks plan who are working together, Wycombe and the Vale of Aylesbury!

The Royal Borough is currently proposing to agree the “submission” version of its Local Plan on 10th August, dropping a commitment in January to issue a further draft responding to issues raised.  Once published, a submission version cannot be changed prior to the public inquiry.

Despite a promised further round of consultation in the Spring comments and concerns raised by the neighbouring authorities appear to have been ignored.  Slough says it has “a number of significant outstanding issues” with Windsor’s plan and may make formal representations in due course.  Top of the list of concerns is a lack of engagement with adjoining authorities in developing key strategies in the plan.

A report to Planning Committee members said:

“At recent meetings all of the surrounding local authorities have expressed concern that the Council has failed to comply with the Duty [to Cooperate]. If this is the case it will have serious consequences because it would mean that the Plan would be found to be unsound and could not proceed through the public inquiry process.”

The Duty to Cooperate is set out in Section 110 of the Localism Act. Amongst other things it requires Councils to “engage constructively, actively and on an ongoing basis” in developing strategic policies. It is intended to be an iterative process that is applied throughout the plan preparation process from the evidence gathering stage through to the development of the final strategy.

Looking north, another challenge is likely to be made to the Plan produced by Aylesbury Vale District Council as a result of its new relationship with South Bucks apparently intended to avoid it having to work with Slough.

It had previously been agreed that South Bucks was in the same Housing market Area as Slough and Windsor & Maidenhead. But South Bucks has decided to prepare a joint plan with Chiltern District Council and has opted to be considered as part of the Buckinghamshire Housing Market Area instead.  In theory, South Bucks can now look northwards to meet any shortfall in housing in the District even though, while ignoring its previous obligations as part of the Berkshire, in practice, there has been no change to the “functional geography” of the area.

Slough is one of the smallest local authority areas in the country by area, ranked 306 out of 326.  But it has one of the highest population densities.
Local Authority Area Population
Slough 12.56 sq mi 144,575
South Bucks 54.55 sq mi 68,512
Chiltern 75.81 sq mi 93,972
Windsor & Maidenhead 76.61 sq mi 147,400
Wycombe 125.32 sq mi 174,878
Aylesbury Vale 348.55 sq mi 184,560

Aylesbury is already planning on building 21,300 new homes for its own needs plus an additional 12,000 houses to meet the unmet demand from Wycombe, Chiltern and South Bucks Councils – all very much constrained by Green Belt.  Aylesbury would be re-designated as a “Garden Town” and would compete head to head with Slough’s own proposal for a northern extension of the Slough in the form of a new “garden suburb”.

Slough’s planning officers have set out the terms of challenges against Windsor and Aylesbury Local Plans in a report to the Planning Committee.

Windsor & Maidenhead

Slough may challenge the draft Windsor & Maidenhead Plan on the basis of:

  • The lack of any meaningful discussions about the contents of the plan or the development of the strategy;
  • The absence of any consideration as to how unmet housing needs in Windsor & Maidenhead and the Housing Market Area would be met elsewhere;
  • The lack of any consideration as to the impact upon Slough of the failure to meet the need for affordable housing in the plan;
  • The lack of any discussion about cross border issues such as how additional traffic generation should be dealt with; and
  • The general failure to consult on and produce some of the key evidence that is needed to inform the preparation of the plan.

Aylesbury Vale

Slough may challenge the Aylesbury Vale Plan – and indirectly the plans of Chiltern, South Bucks and Wycombe – on the basis that:

  • The level of unmet housing need from Chiltern/South Bucks to be accommodated in Aylesbury Vale is too high;
  • Serious consideration should be given to a Green Belt release to the north of Slough;
  • It is unrealistic to assume that housing needs arising in somewhere like Burnham can be met in Aylesbury which is around 25 miles away (by road);
  • Additional houses in Aylesbury may provide the right quantity of housing in Buckinghamshire as a whole, but will not provide sustainable distribution and do nothing to relieve the housing pressures in the southern part of the county;
  • Any proposal for releasing Green Belt for housing will need to meet very special circumstances and be agreed through the Local Plan process.

All local authorities are currently required to have a new Local Plan by 2017 or risk the Government putting one in place.  Most authorities locally are on track but any challenge could delay the process.  Slough is hoping for a reprieve until 2020 on the basis of the uncertainty caused by the Heathrow decision.

With most of the open land in Slough designated Green Belt, and in Colnbrook, the consequences for the village if the Council is unsuccessful in persuading its neighbours to back its plans, could be immense.  In spite of the town’s stated preference for a northern expansion, speculators recently submitted plans to develop over 410 acres of Colnbrook Green Belt in the recent Call for Sites.

Members of the Planning Committee, including Colnbrook’s Cllr Dexter Smith, will be asked to confirm the recommendation of Planning officers at the next meeting this coming Wednesday.

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