The following excellent points were made by a local resident in their response to the local plan consultation. Thanks for letting us share it with other local residents.
Remember, you now have until Monday 4th December to send your comments to the Planning Inspector. To find out how, visit our Rescue Risborough page.
Number of houses planned (Policy PR3, PR7)
The planned development would change the character of the town completely and is totally out of proportion to the developments planned elsewhere in the District. Risborough would grow by some 85% compared with an average of 16% for the rest of the District.
The plan should rather focus on building the right homes in the right places (the key message of the White Housing Paper September 2017).
It is inappropriate that WDC’s plans propose a quarter of the new homes for the entire District to be built in Princes Risborough by taking advantage of the fact that the agricultural green fields adjacent to the town, are one of the few areas in the District unprotected by Greenbelt or Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB).
A far more proportionate number for a town with the size and location of Princes Risborough would be about 1,000 (giving about 25% growth in housing numbers), and it would be preferable that these were accommodated on brown field sites within the current footprint of the town. At least 250 of these are either currently under construction or have been given planning permission.
Also the plan appears to have been drawn up without regard to how the town as a whole should be developed and goes against the principles set out in the NPPF. The town, the residents and businesses should be put at the centre of any plan and the approach should be: 1) How can the quality of life for the residents be improved? 2) How can the town centre facilities be enhanced? 3) How can we generate more employment? 4) What level of development is sustainable in a town of this size?
Parking (Policies PR12, PR14)
The plan rightly acknowledges that there currently needs to be additional parking in the town. The Jacobs’ parking review shows that the Railway Station car park, Tescos and all High St parking is at 100% of capacity, Horns Lane at 70% and The Mount at around 50%. The proposed solution in the plan to double-deck the Mount car park is totally unacceptable (not because I live in the adjoining Manor Park Ave) because it is in the centre of a conservation area, opposite the church, and shows complete lack of empathy with the historic nature of this part of the town!
The solution would be to double-deck the station and the Tesco car parks.
Town Centre (Policies PR14 and PR13)
If the planned expansion were to be allowed thus doubling the population of the town, the centre should be sensitively improved taking into consideration the historic buildings. PR13 is a lost opportunity to improve an area of the centre that is currently underused. The plan needs to ensure that the development of this area goes ahead in line with any expansion and its improvement needs to be actively pursued to provide substantial additional retail, pubs and restaurants on the ground with additional apartments above and parking underground. Additionally, PR14 should actively pursue the movement of the fire station to the new development area and the redevelopment of the site for prime retail at ground level and additional accommodation/car parking above and below.
Environmental (Policies PR6, PR7 and PR11)
This large scale development at the foot of the Chiltern Hills shows no observance of the first guiding principles of the plan for Princes Risborough, namely ‘Cherish the Chilterns’.(Local Plan p166 para 1.) This development will be highly visible from one of the major viewpoints of the Chilterns, The Ridgeway Path (National Trail) on Whiteleaf Hill. This plan shows lack of sensitivity to the importance of the landscape (NPPF para 109 The planning system should contribute to and enhance the natural and local environment by protecting and enhancing valued landscapes, geological conservation interests and soils).
Not enough use is made of potential brownfield sites within the town boundary (NPPF para 111) before planning to build on virgin farmland. The farmland being targeted for the expansion zone, is ancient farmland which has been farmed for thousands of years. A recent archaeological dig at Monks Risborough church uncovered Bronze Age remains. The field boundaries have been identified as also dating back to the Bronze Age. This historical landscape would be destroyed. The need to protect the historic environment is highlighted in the NPPF para 126. The hamlet of Alscot, a designated conservation zone will be surrounded by this new expansion and its historic, peaceful rural setting will be lost. The expansion area is also on the spring line of the Chilterns and in 2014, it should be remembered, the fields between Longwick Road and Askett were flooded, with Mill Lane impassable. Houses on Westmead and Crowbrook Road were flooded.
Land at the back of Poppy Road ( Policy PR11 }
This land is in the Green Belt and is also partly in the AONB. PR11 refers to the Green Belt Report Part 2. which states that the Council considers there are exceptional circumstances to remove this from the Green Belt. These circumstances should not be enough to overturn the guidance in the NPPF para 80. In addition, the buildings in Grovers Court back directly on to this planned development area and have no rear gardens which would result in the windows of these houses looking directly at the walls on the new development! This would need to be addressed by a buffer zone. At the last public meeting, a number of people who live in Poppy Road commented that they have had no consultation, or even been informed by post of this planned development. This is against the NPPF Core Planning Principles (NPPF Para 17)
Although Risborough has good rail links, only a small numbers of travel-to-work journeys are by train compared to those by road. The A4010 is already badly congested between Wycombe and Aylesbury and any additional development in this area will only exacerbate this. The developments in Thame and Chinnor will also add to the road and rail congestion. Rush hour trains to London are currently standing room only when they get to Risborough and with additional passengers starting their journeys at Thame/Haddenham, they will be even more congested.
The “Relief Road” will only add to the congestion referred to above – it is not a by-pass merely a service road for the new expansion.
The proposed route cuts through both AONB and Green Belt and would cause distress and inconvenience especially to the residents in Summerleys Road and danger to pedestrians on their way to the station.
In this aspect also the proposed development is too far from the Railway station to walk, and goes against one of the NPPF Core Planning Principles (para 17).
Most of the employment in the Wycombe District is centred on the M40 corridor and Thames Valley and it is here where the housing should be located to best effect.
There is currently little local employment and the housing planned would merely be taken up by commuters working elsewhere.
Public Consultation (Local Plan Paragraphs 1.25, 1.27 NPPF Paragraph 17)
The draft local plan public consultation closed in March 2016 and a summary of these concerns was published in November 2016 following an overwhelming response from 3,000 people raising over 10,000 individual comments.
The majority of the comments received were critical of the plan not least with regard to the scale of the planned expansion. No attempt was made however to scale down the numbers or change the plan based on this feedback.
A petition started in 2017 by Risborough Area Residents Association (RARA) objecting to the scale of the planned expansion, asked WDC to:
- reconsider its plan for Princes Risborough, and propose a lower scale of development;
- investigate better solutions for the Wycombe District that make better use of available land;
- fully consult with local residents on future proposals and act on their views and feedback.
This petition had reached over 4,000 signatures (over half of the local population) when it was presented to the Council in June 2017, only to be summarily dismissed by the Council at their full Cabinet session.
This decision is against the NPPF Core Planning Principles (NPPF Para 17) which stresses that planning should: ‘Be genuinely plan-led, empowering local people to shape their surroundings, with succinct local and neighbourhood plans setting out a positive vision for the future of the area”.
Sustainability (PR6, PR7, PR8, PR11 and PR16)
In summary :-
One accepts that there must be provision for additional homes but the best option for the growth of Princes Risborough, would be the development of about 1,000 homes on sites within the present town’s built-up and brown areas, with no green-field expansion, instead of building 2,650 houses on prime agricultural land which would result in :-
The separation of the town into two, by a railway line with little access between the two areas, where there would be:
- Few retail outlets
- Little local employment
- Not in walking distance of the station and,
- More journeys by car on already congested roads to –
The present town where :
- Parking already at capacity
- Food retail at capacity
- A small and constrained town centre
A resident population who haven’t been properly consulted and over 50% are opposed to the development!
The reduction of biodiversity.
Despoiling of the view from the AONB.
Destruction of historical and archaeological sites.
Building in a flood zone.
I trust the Planning Inspector will take the above into consideration.