‘Dramatic U-turn’ as cabinet backs plans for 6,000 new homes across Aylesbury Vale

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Six thousand new homes will be built in Aylesbury Vale after councillors performed a U-turn and dropped plans for 9,000 houses.

Last night, Aylesbury Vale District Council cabinet members unanimously approved a target of creating a minimum of 6,000 jobs and building 6,000 homes by 2031.

The move has been described as a ‘dramatic U-turn’, with cabinet indicating in May it would prefer to approve 9,000 homes.

However, after delaying the decision until last night, members say new information, including census figures which show the population of Aylesbury Vale is not growing as quickly as expected, has led them to change their minds.

Councillor Sue Polhill, cabinet member for planned development, design and conservation, who was previously in favour of building 9,000 new homes, admitted there had been a change of direction but said circumstances were different now.

Councillor Polhill said: “We have not had the population growth we thought we were going to have.

“It just shows we as a cabinet keep our minds open and that we always listen and when circumstances change, which they have, then we adapt.”

If 6,000 new homes are built across the district, it will mean 3,270 in the ‘Aylesbury urban area’, with 2,450 of these in Aylesbury East and the remaining 820 at other brownfield and greenfield sites. If 9,000 were built there would have been 2,400 in Aylesbury East and 3,175 on brownfield and greenfield sites.

There will also be 700 new homes in Buckingham, 400 in Winslow, 100 in Haddenham, 30 in Wendover, 850 across the Vale’s larger villages and 650 in smaller villages.

The newly approved homes will be in addition to 7,300 houses already given planning permission.

Councillor Carole Paternoster, cabinet member for strategic planning, said: “It is vital we strike the right balance in our plans between jobs, infrastructure and homes over the next 20 years.

“If the Vale is to continue to prosper new homes will be needed, but we are also very clear that we must protect what makes the district a unique and special place to live.”

Councillor Michael Edmonds, the council’s deputy leader, said it was good to see local people’s wishes reflected in the lower number put forward.

Former Conservative cabinet member Councillor Phil Yerby, who has been publicly backing the lower figure, said: “It’s a dramatic U-turn and one that I welcome.

“I am not going to criticise anyone for doing a U-turn. I want to congratulate them for making the right decision.”

However, Liberal Democrat group leader Councillor Steven Lambert said the cabinet had made a ‘short-sighted’ decision and that there would be insufficient money coming from developers for new infrastructure.

Mr Lambert said: “I think they have just shot themselves in the foot.

“They are not going to get the infrastructure they have been crying out for.

“I thought 9,000 was about right.

“We need to plan for growth. The only way the town is going to get better is if it grows.”

Cabinet says the Vale of Aylesbury Plan should be led by economic growth, and members aim to create a minimum of 6,000 new jobs over the next two decades.

Councillor David Thompson, cabinet member for leisure, said: “We have got to look at more technical jobs that we can do.”

Councillor Edmonds said: “The 6,000 jobs target is a minimum and I am sure that we will exceed that.”

However, Mr Lambert questioned where new jobs were going to come from.

The soon to be abolished South East Plan had set a target of 26,890 new homes in the Vale by 2026. That target is being scrapped by the Government, allowing councils to plan for growth they believe is appropriate to their area.

Following the cabinet decision, planning officers will continue work on the strategy document which will set out the jobs and housing targets, the distribution of growth, the principles of how development should take place and the phasing of that development. This document will be considered by cabinet in the autumn before being presented to full council for approval. It will then be subject to public examination by an independent inspector in early 2013.

Mr Lambert warned the plans could be thrown out by inspectors because cabinet had decided on the lower housing figure.

But Mrs Polhill said officers would ensure when the inspectors look at the plans there would be a strong case to support the lower figure.

She said: “There’s always a risk with everything.

“But you have always got to keep your mind open to new information.”