STOP! Drama at council meeting as minister steps in at last minute to delay housing plans

Secretary of State Greg Clark

Secretary of State Greg Clark

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A shock intervention by the Secretary of State during a council planning meeting was billed a triumph for Buckingham’s imminent neighbourhood plan.

The drama unfolded on Wednesday, when Aylesbury Vale District Council (AVDC)’s planning committee met to discuss proposals for 130 new homes on land close to Moreton Road, submitted by Bellway Homes.

At the meeting Coun-cillors Llew Monger and Mark Cole said the plans contravene boundaries set by Buckingham’s potential neighbourhood plan, which has been drawn up by local people and sets where development should be placed. A public vote on the plan is being held on September 17. It was argued that a decision should only be made after then.

However, the committee decided to press on with the decision.

But they were forced to halt when secretary of state for communities and local government Greg Clark’s office called, saying that the minister was considering making the decision himself, and that more time was needed.

Councillor Cole said: “Committee members were in the process of asking questions of the officers when an aide rushed in with an email from the Secretary of State, saying that he wanted to consider whether or not to call in the application, advising the committee that they could if they wanted give an indication of whether they wanted to approve or refuse it, but saying that would make no difference to his consideration.

“If they formally approved it he would call it in.”

Councillor Jon Harvey, who contacted Mr Clark about the application, said: “As anyone can, I wrote as an individual, expressing my deep concern about the impact of this matter on not only the forthcoming referendum in Buckingham, but potentially all neighbourhood plans in the Vale and beyond.”

He added: “This is not a time for gloating over the embarrassment of AVDC being pulled up short by the Secretary of State. But this is a time to redouble our efforts to get a big YES vote on September 17, and put Buckingham in the driving seat for our town’s future.”

A spokesman for AVDC said: “The Secretary of State has instructed the council to not grant permission on this application without specific authorisation.

“This direction has been issued to enable him to consider whether the application should be referred to him for determination. We must await the Secretary of State’s decision.”